- The Washington Times - Monday, April 26, 2010

PHOENIX | An Arizona congressman urged the Obama administration on Sunday not to cooperate when illegal immigrants are picked up by local police if a tough new state immigration law survives legal challenges.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, spoke to thousands of people gathered at the state Capitol and, along with other speakers, called on President Obama to fight the law, promising to march in the streets and invite arrest by refusing to comply.

“We’re going to overturn this unjust and racist law, and then we’re going to overturn the power structure that created this unjust, racist law,” Mr. Grijalva said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, speaking Sunday in New York, said that just as freedom riders battled segregation in the 1960s, he would organize “freedom walkers” to challenge the Arizona bill.

“We will go to Arizona when this bill goes into effect and walk the streets with people who refuse to give identification and force arrest,” Mr. Sharpton said.

Mr. Obama has called the new law “misguided” and instructed the Justice Department to examine it to see if it’s legal. It requires police to question people about their immigration status - including asking for identification - if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.

Opponents say it would lead to racial profiling because officers would be more likely to ask people who look Hispanic. Supporters have dismissed concerns about profiling, saying the law prohibits the use of race or nationality as the sole basis for an immigration check.

Protesters, some of whom came from as far away as Texas, clustered under trees for shelter from Arizona’s searing sun and temperatures that approached 90 degrees. Police said it was peaceful and that there were no clashes.

Bill Baker, 60, took time off work at a downtown Phoenix restaurant to sell umbrellas and Mexican and American flags to the largely Hispanic crowd, though he supports the law they all showed up to oppose.

“If I go to another foreign country, if I go to Mexico, I have to have papers,” Mr. Baker said. “So I don’t feel there’s anything particularly harsh about the law.”

The new law makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. Immigrants unable to produce documents showing they are allowed to be in the U.S. could be arrested, jailed for up to six months and fined $2,500. Other provisions allow lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws, and make it illegal to hire illegal immigrants for day labor or knowingly transport them.

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