Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff
Chanting defiant slogans in English and Spanish, activists today protested a new Arizona law targeting illegal immigrants, denouncing the measure as draconian and discriminatory.
"As Americans, we must stand up against this law," Maria Elena Letona, associate director of the state's chapter of the National Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Communities, told a midday gathering on the Boston Common. "It's a travesty, and it's a moral outrage."
The law, widely hailed as the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the country, requires law enforcement to question people about their immigration status -- and arrest them without a warrant -- if they have a "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally. It also requires immigrants to carry proof of legal status at all times.
That has stoked fears among immigrants that police will single out Hispanics, including those who are in the country legally, and engage in systematic racial profiling.
"I ask you, 'What does reasonable suspicion mean?" Letona said through a megaphone. "It means not looking white. It means not sounding white. It means those who do not conform to a certain idea of what Americans should look like."
Some two dozen activists led the demonstration, which is slated to continue this evening with a candlelight vigil near the State House. They chanted for justice and held signs denouncing the law as racist, comparing bill to apartheid in South Africa and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the measure into law yesterday, causing a uproar among immigrant groups and triggering demonstrations across the country. Brewer, a Republican, said the law was necessary to combat a crisis of illegal immigrants who have poured into Arizona from Mexico.
"We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act," Brewer said yesterday after signing the law. "But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation."
President Barack Obama called the law "misguided" and said it threatens 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."
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