Lutheran pastor Gary Mills spoke during a rally against the Arizona immigration law in downtown Manhattan.
Beyond Borders, Dispatches, United States

Immigrants Rally Nationally to Protest Arizona Law

April 28, 2010 By Alison Bowen
Lutheran pastor Gary Mills spoke during a rally against the Arizona immigration law in downtown Manhattan.

Lutheran pastor Gary Mills spoke during a rally against the Arizona immigration law in downtown Manhattan.

NEW YORK — Backlash against the Arizona law emerged throughout the country Tuesday as immigrants took to the streets, asking President Barack Obama to strike down the law.

In New York, a downtown rally brought dozens of people with signs saying “Immigrants’ Rights are Human Rights” and “Stop Deporting Families.” Speaker after speaker criticized the situation in Arizona.

“Police now become immigration officers,” said Lutheran Pastor Gary Mills at the rally, which was sponsored by local immigrant groups. Mills said the country needs “laws that protect rather than condemn those living in our borders, whether documented or not.”

People at the rally also gathered to protest the Secure Communities program, planned to be in every law enforcement agency by 2013.

New York’s was one of nine planned rallies in cities participating in “Uncovering the Truth,” a campaign investigating police collaborations with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

A dozen NYPD officers encircled the group at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building‎, one politely asking people to stay on the sidewalk. Another wore a “Police, ICE” jacket.

Blanca Portilla stumbled across the protest as she was leaving immigration court, hoping to gain residency. She pulled her court papers out of a manila envelope, describing how she fled Colombia when guerrillas killed her husband and threatened her.

Lawyers told her she had a great case for asylum, she said, but only if she’d filed when she arrived 20 years ago. Now, she lives in Canada, visiting New York to see her citizen children.

“Arizona is a big problem,” she said in Spanish, adding that the law affects everyone. “We are many.”

As the Arizona law stirs up discussion, Democrats in Washington are feeling pressure rise to work on an immigration bill.

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled that immigration reform could be a topic even before climate change. However, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham later lashed out, calling the proposal “phony” and backing out of deliberations for an energy bill.

Graham’s helped legislation for both issues, co-authoring a March column in The Washington Post with Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, “The right way to mend immigration.”

The president maintains that both immigration and energy are important issues, and that Congress could balance both at the same time. Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration was considering a court challenge to the Arizona law.

About Alison Bowen

Alison is a Missouri native and New York City freelance writer who has wanted to cover Latin America since studying Spanish in Central America. After moving to Brooklyn, her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Daily News, the Manhattan Times and Women’s eNews. She earned a master’s degree in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University. Her thesis focused on immigration policies after September 11, including counterterrorism measures, and their effects on the daily lives of immigrants in New York City.


Ronald says:

First: The USA is an immigrant country. My grandparents were immigrants. Historically, most immigrants came here legally, registered, and became citizens. Now we are subject to reports that don’t distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. That is irresponsible journalism.
Regarding the new Arizona law, news media print a LOT of misinformation on this topic. Before reporters and the general public comment on this subject they should read the ACTUAL Arizona bill. It’s available on the Arizona legislature’s website. It’s not a secret; it’s public law. Second point: “immigrant rights” is not the same as “illegal immigrant rights”. It’s inflammatory to report efforts to enforce U.S. laws regarding illegal acts as though those efforts were directed against legal residents. Third point: Arizona police do not have the okay to randomly stop people to inquire about immigration status. Read the law. Read the law. Read the law. Stop repeating wrong information.

cybel says:

Yes, America IS an immigrant nation which is why you would think most people would be more empathic to these people here illegally trying to make a fair wage for their families. The vague”Reasonable Suspicion ” is the problem. What IS reasonable suspicion? There is no clearly defined attributes written in the law that outlines what an illegal immigrant should look like . What would make you suspect a person is illegally residing in the USA?

This will lead to racial profiling, where people will get harassed because they “may look like an illegal” which basically refers to Hispanics, since the majority of illegals in the state are of Hispanic descent. The vagueness gives the police enough power to use it to their advantage or hide behind it as shield.

When did we become a Fascist nation?? “Papers please!” Really? In 2010??
Land of immigrants= no more. “Give me your weak, your hungry, your poor”= no more. “Why don’t we just make the illegals wear little badges so we can identify them easier? Why don’t we just gather them up and put them in ghettos and force them into slave labor?” OH, that’s right..because this isn’t Nazi germany..this is AMERICA land of opportunity! Sorry got confused there for a second when I saw that Arizona law.

Historically the first illegal immigrants were the pilgrims, I don’t think the natives here processed their papers when they landed on Plymouth rock.

jfrancus says:


Arizonans have endured decades of federal neglect of immigration enforcement. Half of illegal border crossings now occur in Arizona, and our study found that state taxpayers spend more than $2 billion a year on education and healthcare for illegal immigrants and their children. The porous border is virtually a welcome mat for criminal organizations that run drugs and other contraband through the state. Kidnappings in Phoenix are at an all-time high, and the killing last month of rancher Robert Krentz — police suspect by an illegal immigrant — is only the latest graphic example of the impact that rampant illegal immigration has on ordinary Arizonans.

Faced with an ongoing crisis and little help from Washington, Arizona has been forced to respond to protect its residents and its financial resources. This month, the legislature passed and Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070. Among other things, this law requires all law enforcement officers in Arizona to act on reasonable suspicion that an individual is in the country illegally.

The reaction from advocates for illegal immigrants to SB 1070 — which, according to opinion polls, is supported by some 70% of Arizonans — can only be described as incendiary and irresponsible, not to mention patently inaccurate. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony invoked images of Nazi Germany and Soviet totalitarianism. Reform Immigration for America, an umbrella coalition of pro-amnesty groups, warned ominously that “it’s racial profiling, and it encapsulates the hatred we are fighting.” ACORN’s Bertha Lewis declared, “If this bill passes, Arizona is declaring itself an apartheid state.”

SB 1070 is not a mandate for Arizona police to seek out illegal immigrants. It conforms fully with the Constitution’s 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Under the law, Arizona police are prohibited from racially profiling or stopping anybody merely because of appearance or ethnicity. They may inquire about immigration status only if there is justification for the stop under the Constitution — such as investigating a possible crime — and there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is in the U.S. illegally.

And what is reasonable suspicion? Reasonable suspicion might include the lack of any sort of valid U.S. identification documents that police officers routinely request from anyone who is lawfully stopped. The law expressly states that race, color or ethnicity does not constitute reasonable suspicion of illegal presence in the U.S. In reality, SB 1070 does nothing more than require police in Arizona to protect the citizenry and uphold responsibilities abrogated by the federal government.

A ruling by the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals this year provides firm legal footing for Arizona’s law. In Estrada vs. Rhode Island, the court affirmed that the failure of an alien to possess alien registration documents represents probable cause for state or local police to arrest the person for a federal misdemeanor committed in the officer’s presence, or detain that person until the individual’s status can be verified.

Predictably, those who have consistently opposed all efforts to enforce U.S. immigration laws are resorting to a campaign of lies and distortions to fight implementation of the law.

SB 1070, plain and simple, will allow police to identify and detain people because of the laws they violate, not because they happen to meet a particular racial or ethnic profile. What it demands is that state law enforcement officers no longer turn a blind eye in situations in which they reasonably suspect that an individual they have encountered is violating U.S. immigration laws.

[…] At Beyond Borders: Immigrants rally nationally to protest the new Arizona law. […]

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