Nearly 100 people demonstrated downtown Monday night calling Arizona's new immigration law racist and a violation of civil rights carrying signs that said "Now illegal to be Mexican in Arizona" and "Shame on Arizona.”
Arizona signed bill SB 1070 into law on Friday. The measure, set to take effect in late July or early August would make it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally. It directs state and local police to question people about their immigration status if there's a reason to suspect they are illegal.
Protestors who gathered outside the federal courthouse fear the new measure takes the immigration debate down the wrong path.
"That opens the door to racial profiling, to trampling on constitutional protections. And we're saying that's not right," said Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee.
Rios argued that the law may lead to harassment of all people who look Latino.
"We have strong concerns that everyone then becomes a suspect if they don't meet the criteria of who should belong in this country," Rios said.
The emotion of the issue was evident as some people driving past the demonstrations downtown honked their horns in support.
Others rolled down their windows and shouted "No amnesty!" During the demonstration one counter-protester yelled "If you're not here legally, go home."
Former U.S. Attorney Pete Nunez welcomed the bill and said it will help the immigration officer deal with the estimated 450,000 illegal immigrants in the state.
"By Arizona adding their resources to this effort, it will help the federal government enforce immigration law and it's a good thing," said Nunez.
He believes that police won't waste their time stopping people on the street randomly. "If they suspect a person is here illegally, or they stop them in the context of another offense and they discover that the person is there illegally, they can arrest them based upon that status," Nunez said.
The new law could prove costly. San Francisco city leaders called for a boycott of Arizona-based businesses. City Attorney Dennis Herrera will start determining which contracts between the city and the county of San Francisco could be severed without penalty. It's unclear how many businesses that will affect.
Also, the American Immigration Lawyers Association has canceled a meeting scheduled for later this year in Scottsdale.