Arizona Immigration Law Generates First Challenges The first legal suits have been filed against Arizona's tough new immigration law. Latino and other groups say the measure is unconstitutional, and law enforcement officials are taking sides. A Phoenix-area sheriff supports the law, while his counterpart in Tucson's Pima County, near the Mexican border, says enforcing it will drain local resources.
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Arizona Immigration Law Generates First Challenges

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Arizona Immigration Law Generates First Challenges

Arizona Immigration Law Generates First Challenges

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NPR's Ted Robbins reports.

TED ROBBINS: Three lawsuits were filed Thursday to block Arizona's immigration law from taking effect; one by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, and one each by police officers in Tuscan and Phoenix.

ACLU: MALDEF's president, Thomas Saenz, says the Arizona law is an unconstitutional attempt to control immigration.

THOMAS SAENZ: And that is a responsibility and authority that belongs exclusively to the federal government under our Constitution. Indeed, if it were not the case that we had only one federal government regulating immigration, we would cease to be one nation.

ROBBINS: This is not the first time this coalition of groups has sued to block a state immigration law. In the '90s it successfully stopped California's Proposition 187, which tried to cut off education and social services to undocumented immigrants. That law was supported by almost 60 percent of California voters. A poll released Thursday shows that the Arizona law is supported by more than 60 percent of voters here. Another poll shows 51 percent of voters nationwide support Arizona's crackdown.

JOHN KAVANAGH: It's not just Arizona. It's everybody's upset, and this country's not laughing at us. They're cheering us on.

ROBBINS: Republican State Representative John Kavanagh is one of the bill's sponsors. Kavanagh scoffed at threats to boycott Arizona tourism or products. Kavanagh says in the long-run visitors at least will come back.

KAVANAGH: Because as the illegal immigration population is reduced, partially because of this law, Arizona will become a safer place and tourists like safe locations.

ROBBINS: Yet even some law enforcement officials in Arizona are bluntly expressing their opposition.

CLARENC DUPNIK: It's bull (bleep).

ROBBINS: That's Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. Pima County is in southern Arizona along the border and(ph) Tuscan. His department regularly arrests illegal crosses who've committed serious crimes, then turns them over to the Border Patrol. Dupnik says the state law duplicates federal law, and if it takes effect it will drain local resources.

DUPNIK: We would not only put the jail into a crisis overnight, we would overwhelm the rest of the system and the taxpayers would have to pay for that. Right now we give them to the Feds and it doesn't cost the local taxpayers anything.

JOE ARPAIO: I look at it a little different. I say I'm helping the federal government. They can't take care of this problem themselves.

ROBBINS: That is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio's jurisdiction includes Phoenix. He says he has plenty of room for illegal immigrants in his famous, or infamous, tent city jails. So he's looking forward to making them serve local time before he turns them over to the Feds.

ARPAIO: Because now it's a state law misdemeanor to be in this country illegally. So that's just the extra tool that we will have if we want to enforce that. I am going to enforce that.

ROBBINS: Ted Robbins, NPR News, Phoenix.

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