The Rev. Al Sharpton is planning a legal challenge to Arizona's tough new immigration law, saying he will travel to the state to stage a rally, even going to jail in a show of civil disobedience over the controversial bill.
Rev. Sharpton and Lillian Rodriguez Lopez from the Hispanic Federation said they will file a lawsuit in the next three months and could eventually travel to Arizona with “freedom riders,” who are prepared to go to jail if arrested, a statement said today.
Plans for Sharpton’s march in Arizona follows protests in Queens and in cities and towns around the country over the two-day-old Arizona bill. The law, signed Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer, requires police to question people about their immigration status — including asking for identification — if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.
The law also toughens restrictions on hiring illegal immigrants for day labor and knowingly transporting them.
Civil rights advocates have vowed to challenge the law in court, saying it would undoubtedly lead to racial profiling despite Brewer's assurances.
Supporters have dismissed those concerns, saying the law prohibits the use of race or nationality as the sole basis for an immigration check. Brewer has ordered state officials to develop a training course for officers to learn what constitutes reasonable suspicion someone is in the U.S. illegally.
Hundreds gathered outside the state Capitol in Phoenix on Friday shouting that the bill would lead to civil rights abuses. After she signed the bill, Brewer said critics were "overreacting."
A handful of protesters lingered at the Capitol Saturday morning. Others gathered in Tucson outside the campaign headquarters of U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who opposes the measure and has called on businesses and groups looking for convention and meeting locations to boycott Arizona.
Current law in Arizona and most states doesn't require police to ask about the immigration status of those they encounter, and many police departments prohibit officers from inquiring out of fear immigrants won't cooperate in other investigations.
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. It also allows lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon's office said in a statement Saturday that "the Mexican government condemns the approval of the law" and "the criminalization of migration, far from contributing to collaboration and cooperation between Mexico and the state of Arizona, represents an obstacle to solving the shared problems of the border region."
Arizona has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants and is the state with the most illegal border crossings, with the harsh, remote desert serving as the gateway for thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans.