By Maria Leon
PHOENIX – The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Immigration Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union announced on Thursday that they are filing a lawsuit challenging Arizona law SB1070, the first legislation in the United States to make it a crime to be an undocumented immigrant.
“Today, the three most experienced immigrants’ and civil rights legal organizations nationwide – MALDEF, ACLU and NILC – announce their partnership, together with local Arizona-based counsel, to challenge SB1070 in court,” MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said at a press conference on the grounds of the state capitol in Phoenix.
“The Arizona community can be assured that a vigorous and sophisticated legal challenge will be mounted, in advance of SB1070’s implementation, seeking to prevent this unconstitutional and discriminatory law from ever taking effect,” he said.
Saenz told Efe that a date has not been set to file the complaint, but it could be next month.
“This law will only make the rampant racial profiling of Latinos that is already going on in Arizona much worse,” Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona, said.
“If this law were implemented, citizens would effectively have to carry ‘their papers’ at all times to avoid arrest,” she said. “It is a low point in modern America when a state law requires police to demand documents from people on the street.”
The coalition warned that several constitutional problems exist with SB1070 because it interferes with the power of the federal government to enforce immigration laws.
In the opinion of Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union, in Arizona a complete segment of the population is being attacked, namely Latinos.
“We must not give in one inch to Arizona’s effort to blame our community for all the ills of the state or their efforts to run us out,” she said.
Singer and Arizona native Linda Ronstadt also joined the chorus of voices condemning the legislation promulgated by Gov. Jan Brewer last Friday.
“What Gov. Brewer signed into law last week is a piece of legislation that threatens the very heart of this great state. We must come together and stop SB1070 from pitting neighbor against neighbor to the detriment of us all,” Ronstadt said.
The announcement by the ACLU, MALDEF and NILC coincided with the filing of the first two lawsuits against the state law.
On Thursday morning, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders, or Conlamic, filed a suit in federal court in Phoenix against the implementation of SB1070.
Also, Tucson police officer Martin H. Escobar filed a suit in which he says that SB1070 violates numerous constitutional rights and is an obstacle to the police doing their jobs, particularly in Latino neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, University of Arizona President Robert N. Shelton reported Thursday that several students had threatened to quit school at the institution and change to universities in other states because of the approval of the law.
The new legislation authorizes police departments to act as immigration officials and penalizes people who hire undocumented day laborers on the street or provide transportation to an undocumented immigrant, among other things. EFE