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Amid protests, Arizona appeals ruling on state immigration law

50 demonstrators arrested in clash at US courthouse

Phoenix police arrested people protesting the immigration law at the Maricopa County sheriff’s office yesterday. Phoenix police arrested people protesting the immigration law at the Maricopa County sheriff’s office yesterday. (Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic via Associated Press)
By Bob Christie
Associated Press / July 30, 2010

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PHOENIX — Arizona asked an appeals court yesterday to lift a judge’s order blocking most of the state’s immigration law as the capital city filled with protesters, including about 50 who were arrested for confronting officers in riot gear.

Governor Jan Brewer called Wednesday’s decision by US District Judge Susan Bolton to block some aspects of the law “a bump in the road,’’ and the state appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, yesterday.

Hundreds of protesters began marching at dawn, gathering in front of the federal courthouse where Bolton issued her ruling. They marched on to the office of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a crackdown on illegal immigration one of his signature issues.

At least 23 demonstrators were arrested after blocking the entrance and beating on the large steel doors leading to the Maricopa County jail in downtown Phoenix. Sheriff’s deputies in riot gear opened the doors and waded into the crowd, hauling off those who didn’t move.

Dozens of others were arrested throughout the day while trying to cross a police line, entering closed-off areas, or sitting in the street and refusing to leave. Former state senator Alfredo Gutierrez, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002, was among them. A photographer for the Arizona Republic also was detained.

Marchers chanted “Sheriff Joe, we are here, we will not live in fear.’’ In the crowd was a drummer wearing a papier-mâché Sheriff Joe head and dressed in prison garb.

Arpaio vowed to go ahead with a crime sweep targeting illegal immigrants. Phoenix police made most of the early arrests, before protesters moved to the jail.

“My deputies will arrest them and put them in pink underwear,’’ Arpaio said, referring to one of his odd methods of punishment for prisoners. “Count on it.’’

Arizona is the nation’s epicenter of illegal immigration, with more than 400,000 undocumented residents. The state’s border with Mexico is awash with smugglers who funnel narcotics and immigrants throughout the United States, and supporters of the new law say the influx of illegal immigrants drains vast sums of money from hospitals, education, and other services.

In Tucson, 50 to 100 people gathered at a downtown street corner. One group protested the law while a second supported it. Linda Galindo, Tucson police spokeswoman, said one man was arrested for threatening people in the other group.

In Los Angeles, about 200 protesters invaded a busy intersection west of downtown. Police waited more than three hours before declaring it an unlawful assembly. Most of the demonstrators left peacefully, but about a dozen, linked together with plastic pipes and chains, lay in the street in a circle as an act of civil disobedience. Officer Bruce Borihanh said police were cutting the protesters’ chains and taking them away to be booked for failure to disperse.

In New York City, about 300 immigrant advocates gathered near the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.

Councilman Jumaane Williams, a first-generation Caribbean-American, told the crowd: “We won a slight battle in Arizona, we’ve got to continue with the war.’’

Bolton indicated the government has a good chance at succeeding in its argument that federal immigration law trumps state law. But the key sponsor of Arizona’s law, Representative Russell Pearce, a Republican, said the state would ultimately win the case.

In her temporary injunction, Bolton delayed the most contentious provisions of the law, including a section that required officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. She also barred enforcement of parts requiring immigrants to carry their papers and banned illegal immigrants from soliciting employment in public places. The judge also blocked officers from making arrests of suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.

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