Update: Civil rights attorney arrested in police confrontation


The Center for Constitutional Rights just sent out the following release ...

This afternoon, CCR Attorney Sunita Patel was arrested while carrying out her legal observer duties at a protest of Arizona’s unconstitutional immigration law, SB 1070. As police began a sweep, Ms. Patel began to take down names of those being arrested and was promptly arrested herself. Witnesses say legal observers were deliberately targeted by police.

Said CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley, “Arresting a young woman of color who is there as an attorney observer demonstrates how irresponsible and un-American the Arizona action is. I fear Arizona is starting to act like Mississippi in the civil rights days.”

Several hundred activists marched here Thursday as a new Arizona immigration law went into effect, sparking a tense standoff with riot police in which about two dozen people were arrested.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer appealed against a judge's injunction stripping the most contentious sections from the legislation, as angry protestors were met by scores of police in riot gear.

Civil rights groups marched through Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, to denounce the new law, even though a judge has temporarily stripped it of key powers allowing police to spot check the immigration status of all suspects.

Judge Susan Bolton ruled Wednesday that those powers would place a burden on legal resident aliens living in Arizona, where one in three of the 6.6 million people is foreign-born and an estimated 460,000 are illegal immigrants.

Protestors urged schools, town and city governments and local police departments not to comply with the law, which they say amounts to ethnic profiling.

Waving Mexican and US flags, the activists marched on the courthouse and the offices of tough county sheriff Joe Arpaio, brandishing banners demanding "Stop the Raids, No More Deportations" and "Stop Targeting Immigrants Now."

About a dozen demonstrators chained themselves to the metal doors of the Marciopa country jail until sheriff's deputies emerged from the building to take them inside, an AFP correspondent saw.

Arpaio warned that those causing disturbances will be arrested, and Phoenix authorities told AFP that about two dozen people had been detained.

In a challenge to the immigrant groups, Arpaio said some 200 police and volunteers would be patrolling the streets on Thursday on the lookout for illegal immigrants in the 17th such sweep by his deputies.

"We're going to hit certain areas valley-wide, which includes cities, that we feel that the human smuggling is taking place," he told reporters.

Activists accused the authorities of fostering "a climate of hate."

"They're not hiding their intentions, and we intend to resist," said Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state senator and activist with the Somos America rights group.

But officials in Arizona, which borders Mexico, argue the US administration has failed to secure the borders, and they are overwhelmed by illegal immigrants.

Brewer, who signed the bill into law in April, appealed against the judge's injunction, vowing to take the fight to the Supreme Court.

"Illegal immigration is an ongoing crisis the state of Arizona did not create and the federal government has refused to fix," she said, urging the courts to expedite the appeal.

Judge Bolton on Wednesday suspended the most contested parts of the law hours before it went into effect at one minute after midnight (0701 GMT Thursday).

She ruled that sections handing police the power to check the immigration status of all suspected criminals and making it a crime not to carry proper papers were suspended.

She also temporarily froze a section making it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit work -- a clause aimed at the queues of people who gather early every day waiting for employers to drive by and offer them spot jobs.

The row over the Arizona law has thrust the issue of the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants once more into the spotlight, after a series of failed legislative attempts to bring them out of the shadows.

"This is just a backfire of the economic policies that the US is implementing on third world nations," said Jorge Perez, who traveled to the protest with a group of labor activists from San Diego.

"I've talked to a lot of immigrant laborers, who come here for work, and they say they hate it here," he added.

"They'd rather be at home, but they have no choice," said Perez, who claimed free trade agreements were to blame for economic misery in Latin America.

The Obama administration has filed one of seven legal challenges to the law being heard by Bolton, and she ruled it would likely succeed in arguing that the federal government has responsibility over immigration policy.

This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast July 29, 2010.

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(with additional reporting by RAW STORY)