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Arizona Senate Passes Controversial Immigration Bill

The Arizona Senate just passed the controversial Senate bill 1070 (“Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act”), one of the toughest immigration bills in the country, by a vote of 17-11. All but one Republican voted for the bill, while all voting Democrats were opposed.

Several senators spoke out against the bill, arguing that Arizona could become the Alabama of the new century, that the bill may be unconstitutional and that it could turn family members of illegal immigrants into criminals. One senator called the bill “un-American,” and another expressed concern over how Arizona might be viewed if the legislation were passed and whether tourism would suffer as a result.

But supporters of the bill pointed out the problems caused by illegal immigration. Republican Senator John Huppenthal, a sponsor of the bill, says he’s seen evidence of neighborhoods that have been “nuclear-bombed by the effects of illegal immigration.” Republican Senator Al Melvin pointed to the murder of an Arizona rancher last month, possibly at the hands of an illegal immigrant, and the federal government’s failure to act on illegal immigration as the reasons for his vote; and another senator cited 40 murders committed by illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration was called an “invasion” several times on the Senate floor.

The bill will now go to Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s desk, where she will have five days to sign or veto the bill. Although Brewer said this morning that she had some concerns over the legislation, she has not commented on whether she would sign or veto the bill, reported the Arizona Republic.

“I am always concerned about all of those things,” Brewer said when asked about several specific provisions of the bill, including one that would require police to ask anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally to produce an “alien registration document” such as a green card…

Still, Brewer declined to give any indication as to whether she would sign or veto the legislation, which has gotten national attention.

“I’ll look at it, go over it and review it completely when it hits my desk,” she said.

Previously, Brewer’s camp has said only that the Governor has “a strong and consistent track record of supporting responsible immigration-enforcement measures.”

About 30 people participated in a candlelight vigil outside Brewer’s home Sunday night, and this morning at 7 a.m., a 24-hour vigil began at the state capitol. Participants are protesting Senate bill 1070 and asking Brewer to veto it. It is widely opposed by civil rights groups and immigrant advocates, and even Mexican Embassy officials have voiced concerns over the possible civil rights violations of Mexican nationals because of racial profiling. It also has some New Mexico lawmakers concerned over a potential increase in illegal immigration through Arizona.

Today, after Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain, both Republicans of Arizona, announced their plan for border security along the U.S.-Arizona border, McCain endorsed Senate bill 1070, and many are wondering how someone who once supported immigration reform is now supporting one of the toughest immigration bills in the country. Hours later, civil rights groups began denouncing his endorsement. “It’s sad to see a man who once stood up to the extremist elements of his own party and once was a great champion for practical action to fix America’s broken immigration system, succumb to the instinct to scapegoat minorities for America’s problems,” said Gabe Gonzalez, director of the Campaign for Community Values and adviser to the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), in a press release. McCain’s Senate challenger, Tea Party favorite J.D. Hayworth, who has called McCain too soft on border security and immigration, also supports the bill.

But the fight over this bill isn’t over yet. Several civil rights groups, including the ACLU of Arizona, have vowed to challenge the law in court if it is passed by the governor. Tomorrow, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform who wrote a Huffington Post editorial denouncing the bill over the weekend, and other members of Congress and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will hold a press conference to ask Brewer to veto the legislation.

Correction: This post initially misstated the party breakdown of the vote. It has been updated to reflect the correct vote count.

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