Demonstrations in support of immigrants’ rights are scheduled Saturday in at least 21 states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces. In all, protests are planned for 47 cities.
The demonstrations come amid a swirl of controversy surrounding a new immigration law in Arizona that allows police to demand proof of legal residency. Arizona lawmakers say the law is needed because the federal government has failed to enforce border security with Mexico, allowing more than 450,000 illegal immigrants to move into the state.
Critics say the law is unconstitutional and will lead to racial profiling, which is illegal. But Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and others who support SB1070 say it does not involve profiling or other illegal acts.
The Arizona legislature passed a series of changes to the law late Thursday in an attempt to address the accusations that the measure will lead to profiling.
The law, which does not go into effect for 90 days, has already drawn at least two lawsuits and condemnation from the Mexican government and other Latin American nations. Prominent entertainers, including Shakira and Linda Ronstadt, also have spoken out against the law.
Some critics are calling for a boycott of Arizona, urging that tourists stay away and that no one do business with companies in the state.
On Friday, two San Francisco, California, officials wrote a three-page letter to Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig to ask that the 2011 All-Star Game be moved from Phoenix, Arizona, if the law is not repealed.
Though perhaps not as vocal, the law also has plenty of supporters. Some have launched a “BUYcott,” in which they urge people to spend money in the state to support the measure. Backers applaud Arizona legislators for taking seriously their concerns about illegal immigration and crime.
Arizona’s new law requires immigrants to carry their registration documents at all times and mandates that police question people if there is reason to suspect they’re in the United States illegally. The measure makes it a state crime to live in or travel through Arizona illegally.
It also targets those who hire illegal immigrant day laborers or knowingly transport them.
Brewer signed the law last week, and the legislature changed some language in it Thursday night in an attempt to make it less ambiguous as to how and when people can be questioned about their residency.
Brewer is likely to sign the changes into law, a spokesman for the governor told CNN.
Among other provisions, lawmakers said that prosecutors would not investigate complaints “based on race, color or national origin.” The law as written states that the Arizona attorney general or a county attorney cannot investigate complaints basely “solely” on such factors.
Lawmakers also stipulated that police officers would not be able to detain an individual based merely on the suspicion that he or she entered the country illegally. The proposed change to the law states that a “lawful stop, detention or arrest must be in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town of this state.”
The Arizona law will be the focus of Saturday’s May Day demonstrations.
Eleven protests are scheduled in California, with two in Los Angeles. New York has eight protests scheduled, including five in New York City.
In Canada, demonstrations are planned in Toronto and Vancouver.
The protests are being organized by the National Immigrant Solidarity Network and are being billed as “May Day 2010 — National Mobilization for Immigrant Workers Rights.”
One of the three lawsuits Thursday was filed by a police officer in Tucson, Arizona, who asked that local law enforcement be exempt from enforcing law.
Officer Martin H. Escobar says in the federal suit that the law will “seriously impede law enforcement investigations and facilitate the successful commission of crimes.”
The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders also filed a federal lawsuit Thursday.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona and the National Immigration Law Center said Thursday they also plan to jointly file a lawsuit.