The Arizona immigration law takes center stage in Washington after Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill Friday that makes it a crime to be in the United States illegally.
Immigration has shot to center stage in Washington, following the signing Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona of legislation that makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally. The law also requires Arizona police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is cause for suspicion.
It is being called the toughest legislation against illegal immigration in the country.
At the signing ceremony in Phoenix, Governor Brewer defended what she called her "unwavering signature" on the bill, despite concerns that the new law could result in racial profiling and other violations of civil liberties.
Arizona, which borders on Mexico, has long struggled with illegal immigration. Brewer discussed "border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration," but added that she had worked with legislators to strengthen civil-rights protections in the bill.
Brewer also blamed Washington for failing to address the immigration crisis in the US, where estimates of the undocumented immigrant population range from 12 million to 20 million.
"We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act," Brewer said. "But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation."
Obama urges Congress to pass immigration legislation
In remarks Friday morning, before Brewer's decision to sign was known, President Obama called the bill "misguided" and said he had instructed members of his administration to "closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation."
He also urged Congress to proceed with legislation, in an effort to preempt actions by other state legislatures.
"Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others," Obama said in a Rose Garden naturalization ceremony for 24 foreign-born members of the US military. "And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe. …