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Weekly Diaspora: Thousands protest SB1070; Arizona gov. braces for lawsuits

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Over Memorial Day weekend, tens of thousands of people marched in Phoenix, AZ to protest SB1070, a law that immigrants to carry papers at all times and makes it possible for any police officer to detain on suspicion of immigration status alone.

At RaceWire, Jorge Rivas reports that “an official crowd estimate was not available for Saturday’s SB1070 protest,” but that “officials overheard on the police scanner estimated the crowd at about 30,000.” Marchers also demanded that President Barack Obama nullify SB1070 by means of a legal challenge from the Justice Department.

Phoenix has become well-known for its anti-immigrant hysteria. The city is part of Maricopa County, home to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for racial profiling after targeting Latino neighborhoods and work sites for raids. The Sheriff has also garnered addition civil rights lawsuits and a pending investigation by the Justice Department relating to civil liberties violations in Arpaio’s “Tent City” jail.

Meanwhile, the fate of a comprehensive immigration reform bill is up in the air. The U.S. Senate is balking at the issue, even though reform proponents continue to participate in civil disobedience actions and marches.

Bring in the Justice Department

But there may be hope. Jessica Pieklo at Care2 writes that “It is becoming clearer and clearer that the only resolution to this issue will be a federal-state showdown, reminiscent of the ordered de-segretation of the South.” This week, unidentified Justice Department officials traveled to Phoenix to discuss SB1070, which be enforced on July 29th. They came to no consensus.

In response to the number of anticipated legal challenges against SB1070, not to mention mounting national pressure, Eric Lach reports for TPM Live Wire that Gov. Jan Brewer will “have outside counsel defend the state against legal challenges to the laws — not the state’s Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat and one of Brewer’s opponents in Arizona’s gubernatorial race.” The announcement came shortly after federal officials traveled to the state to discuss SB1070.

Cops against SB1070

Back at Care2, Pieklo also notes that SB1070 has polarized Arizona’s law enforcement community, with “Sheriff Joe Arpaio and some associations representing rank-and-file officers supporting it while a number of police chiefs have expressed growing unease with the law and see it as a means of driving a wedge between law enforcement and the Latino community, which represents approximately one in three legal Arizona residents.”

Where’s Congress?

The U.S. Senate has been notably absent from the immigration reform debate. Even though a reform proposal is already on the House floor, if the Senate doesn’t introduce a bill soon, immigration reform will likely fail this year. Despite two separate proposed drafts of plans for a bill in the Senate, nothing has been introduced officially. Even if a bill is introduced, the Senate still needs time to debate it, which makes for an uneasy race against the clock.

Immigration and elections

AlterNet reporter Michele Waslin examines the how the immigration issue has influenced recent electoral primaries. “For the last several years Congress has failed come up with a solution, despite the evidence that this is an important issue to their constituencies,” Waslin writes.

“Because Congress hasn’t acted and the problem isn’t resolving itself, some states and localities have taken action—some out of a genuine desire to fix the problem, and others to score political points. The newly passed law in Arizona and the various copycats are evidence that the states are not backing down.”

Currently, the chances that the Senate will have the gumption to take on a reform bill appear bleak, especially with a Congressional election in November.

‘We want common sense to rule’

Meanwhile, the White House’s decision to send 1,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border has drawn sharp criticism from border communities in Texas. Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz, who represents roughly 7,000 constituents along the Rio Grande,  lobbied against the troop deployment.

“Before Congress throws more money at the border, we’re asking them to take a step back and assess whether it’s working first,” Franz said in an interview with The Texas Observer. “We want common sense to rule. We don’t want wasteful spending, and we don’t need any more walls.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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