New immigration law costs Arizona a convention; both sides continue to speak out

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on April 24, 2010 at 5:32 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 25 at 8:32 PM

PHOENIX -- People on both sides of the issue are continuing to speak out on Senate Bill 1070, the controversial anti-illegal-immigration legislation Gov. Jane brewer signed into law Friday.

Protesters had said the new law -- said to be the toughest immigration law in the country -- would spark an economic backlash.

Earlier in the week Congressman Raul Grijalva called for a boycott of Arizona, asking organizations to not hold conventions here and individuals not to spend their money here. Just a day after Brewer signed 1070, that predicted economic hit seems to be materializing.

Protesters against 1070 gathered at the Capitol all week, urging the governor to veto 1070. Those opposed to the tough new law are still hoping to make a difference, only now instead of songs, chants and signs, they're using their wallets.

Just minutes after Brewer signed 1070 into law on Friday, the American Immigration Lawyers' Association canceled their annual fall convention. They had planned to host the September event in Scottsdale.

"We can't in good conscious spend the organization's money in a state that's going to pursue these kinds of policies," said Regina Jeffries of the AILA.

Canceling the event could cost the organization close to $100,000.

"It's a little bit scary in a time that our state can't even afford to fund health care for children and education, yet the Legislature and the governor want to enact a law that will actually end up costing communities and counties hundreds of millions of dollars a year," Jeffries said.

Even as protesters continue to camp out at the Capitol, supporters are celebrating a law that they say will save lives.

"The biggest reason was because a rancher in one of the counties that I represent was murdered in cold blood, along with his dog, by someone who crossed the border illegally ...," said Rep. Frank Antenori (R) of District 30.

Antenori says claims that the new law will legalize racial profiling are unfounded. "[Police] just can't pull somebody over," he said. "They have to be pulled over for violating traffic laws [or] they have to be called to investigate a crime or something along those lines to create the lawful contact. And then, they have to have reasonable suspicion."

Despite that, civil rights activists across the country are promising to challenge the new law, fearing that police will racially profile Hispanics.

The legislation makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally. Police will be allowed to ask people about their citizenship status if there is reasonable suspicion that they are here illegally.

Those who cannot show proper documentation could be arrested, locked up for six months and fined $2,500.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is teaming up with Brewer to call for stronger border security, calls the new law "a terrible piece of legislation."

"It's against the democratic ideals of this country," he said. "It's a step backwards. It's impractical. ... Now, I'm very fond of the governor of Arizona. ... We have a problem on both our borders, but I believe this bill is going to complicate a lot of issues."

Back on the economic front, the Perryman Group estimates that if all illegal immigrants -- an estimated 460,000 people -- were to leave Arizona, the state would lose more than $26 billion in economic activity.

Another protest at the Capitol is scheduled for Sunday at noon.

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