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Arizona under pressure as thousands protest immigration law

Video by Stephen Clarke

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-02

Tens of thousands of people marched in protest in major US cities against a new Arizona law that allows police to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant. Local governments and rights groups have called for a boycott of the state.

AFP - Tens of thousands of protesters marched in a large-scale May Day rally in Los Angeles against a tough new immigration law in Arizona that has triggered a nationwide outcry.
   
Demonstrations were planned in more than 70 cities across the United States as Hispanic organizations mobilize to demand the repeal of the controversial Arizona legislation and wide-ranging federal immigration reform.
   
The biggest protest took place in Los Angeles, where city fire department officials estimated some 60,000 people were marching downtown, with celebrities such as Gloria Estefan addressing the crowd.
   
Organizers said they expect as many as 100,000 could turn out for the march. Around one million people marched for a similar rally in the city in 2006.
   
Protesters in Los Angeles were being encouraged to wave the Stars and Stripes rather than flags from their countries of origin, in an effort to emphasized their loyalty to the United States.
   
"I've been here since I was three," said Jose Luis, a Los Angeles teenager wearing an American flag across his shoulders.
   
Although he had brandished a Mexican flag in the past, he said he now realized "it's about supporting this country."
   
"We still have love for (Mexico), but we're in LA now," he said as the march got under way in a carnival-like atmosphere under bright sunshine and clear blue skies.
   
A nearby truck displayed a large sign appealing for support from President Barack Obama's administration. "Obama hear us," the sign read. "We will die in the struggle."
   
Other rallies were taking place across the country, with crowds expected later before the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix.
   
The Arizona law makes it a state crime to lack proper immigration papers and requires police to determine whether people are in the country illegally.
   
Civil rights activists say the move will lead to racial profiling but state officials have repeatedly emphasized that it expressly forbids law enforcement officers from stopping someone on the basis of their ethnicity.
   
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has said the law, which has attracted significant national support according to recent polls, is needed to secure the state's porous border, one of the main entry points for illegal aliens in the US.
   
In Phoenix on Thursday, legislators tweaked the wording of the bill in what Brewer said was an effort to make it "crystal clear" that racial profiling was illegal.
   
One passage, which stated that law enforcement officers could not rely "solely" on race as grounds for suspecting someone was in the country illegally, was amended to remove the word "solely."
   
"These changes specifically answer legal questions raised by some who expressed fears that the original law would somehow allow or lead to racial profiling," Brewer said.
   
"These new amendments make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated in Arizona."
   
Arizona's immigration law has led to calls for an economic boycott of the border state by cities and local government officials across the country.
   
Meanwhile, Major League Baseball chiefs were urged Friday to strip Arizona of the 2011 All-Star game in a concerted protest.
   
San Francisco city officials called on MLB commissioner Bud Selig to move next year's mid-season extravaganza to a different state.
   
The Major League Baseball Players Association said Arizona's legislation could have a "negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States."

Date created : 2010-05-01

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