Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday signed a law making it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant, just hours after President Obama criticized the measure and said the federal government would review it to see if it violates civil rights laws.
In signing the bill, the Republican governor said she has also issued an executive order to set standards to ensure racial profiling does not take place under the new law, which goes into effect in 90 days. She said the state had to step in and protect its residents because the federal government has failed.
“Though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what’s best for Arizona,” the governor said as she signed the law.
The law makes it a state crime to be in Arizona without proof of legal status, and would authorize police to demand documents from those they suspected could be illegal immigrants. It would also make it a crime to transport or hide illegal immigrants.
The Arizona law has the support of the state’s two Republican senators, who said criminals among the illegal immigrant population are responsible for a marked increase in violence and crime.
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But one of the state’s congressman, Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, has urged businesses to boycott Arizona in retaliation for the proposed law. He said the measure would encourage racial profiling and predicted that without some sort of penalty falling on Arizona, other states would try to follow its lead.
Earlier in the day, at a naturalization ceremony for 24 immigrant U.S. troops at the White House, Mr. Obama blasted the proposed law, saying it represented “irresponsibility” and said he had directed his administration to examine the measure and see if it violates civil rights laws.
Mr. Obama added that the fact that states are taking the immigration issue into their own hands should pressure Congress to act on a broad bill setting out a path for legalizing illegal immigrants at the national level.
Mr. Obama, who this week make phone calls to five Republicans seeking to recruit them to join in writing a bill, on Friday called out “11 current Republican senators” who voted in the past for an immigration legalization bill, and said he is hopeful they will support the effort again.
Immigration has shot to the top of the legislative agenda in the past several weeks as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has said he will make time on the Senate schedule for it this year. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said if the Senate passes a bill the House will also take it up, and she said the House will have the support to pass it.
In the past Republicans and Democrats have worked together on the issue, but this year the cooperation has dried up.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, has been working with Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, on a bill — but no other Republican has joined the effort, despite outreach from Mr. Schumer.
Several Republicans who led past efforts — including Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona, who led the 2006 and 2007 bills respectively, have said there is no consensus this year, and argue that the borders are not yet secure enough to contemplate a bigger overhaul effort including legalization.