Emotions high as U.S. Supreme Court readies for 1070 arguments

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- It has been two years since Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law and Arizona became the state with the country's toughest immigration laws.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the law's constitutionality, and Arizonans remain divided on the issue.

On Monday to mark the two-year anniversary more than one hundred demonstrators marched outside the State Capitol and held a candle light vigil.

Many of the participants say they personally know friends or family members who left the state because of the law.

"People have a lot of fear, they don't feel welcome here in the state of Arizona, and a lot of people, they just decided to leave," said Yolanda Medina, a high school senior.

Medina said her brother, who is undocumented, fled to New Mexico after the law took effect.

But proponents of the law say if it is deterring illegal immigrants from coming or staying in Arizona, it is working.

"We have a thirty-year low in crime, all because of SB 1070," said former State Senator Russell Pearce, citing statistics from the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association.

Pearce authored SB 1070 and says claims that the bill fosters racial profiling are exaggerated.

"We have not had one complaint of racial profiling or biased policing, not one," Pearce told 3TV.

He is in Washington D.C. to testify before Congress on Tuesday and hear the Supreme Court arguments on Wednesday.

While many in Arizona are waiting to see how the Supreme Court ruling will impact immigration policy, some believe the decision will have a much wider impact.

"I think if it were just an immigration issue, you wouldn't see the Supreme Court taking this case," said attorney Brian Bergin of the Rose Law Group. "I really do think this court wants to step into that gap, and wants to be heard to discuss where we really think the balance of power should like between the federal government and our states."

Bergin will travel to D.C. on Tuesday as legal counsel to Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, who has filed a friend of the court brief in favor of the law.

The court will hear arguments on the sections of the law that were put on hold by the lower courts. Those include:

-The section requiring non-citizens to carry "alien registration papers" at all times

-The provision allowing the state of Arizona the authority to prosecute for the crime of illegal immigration, currently a federal crime

-The section requiring police officers in Arizona to ask suspected criminals or traffic violators about their immigration status, when they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person is here illegally.

-The provision making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to seek work or apply for jobs