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Napolitano Condemns Arizona Anti-Immigrant Law

New America Media, News Report, Valeria Fernndez Posted: Mar 26, 2010

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said Thursday that she opposed local legislation that would make Arizona the first state in the nation to criminalize undocumented immigrants.

In my judgment, thats not the best way to structure your law-enforcement and immigration enforcement system, said the former Arizona governor who stood by her three-time vetoes of similar legislation.

Speaking before an audience of students at Arizona State University, Napolitano reiterated the Obama administrations commitment to change immigration policies. She pointed to a recent set of principles set out by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

We are working with the senators and some other members of the Congress on what actual bill language will look like and how it would actually work, she said without providing a timeline.

But her visit didnt happen without protests.

Outside the university, dozens of demonstrators called for more than rhetoric from the Secretary of Homeland Security.

We are tired of them telling us that theyre against these laws and they want immigration reform. We want action, said Carlos Garcia, an organizer with the PUENTE immigrant rights movement.

The group that has opposed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaios immigration policies denounced the Department of Homeland Securitys ongoing cooperation with that law-enforcement agency through an agreement known as 287(g).

Sheriff Arpaio has proven himself to be so abusive of civil rights and human rights that he should not have any contracts sanctioned by the federal government, said Monica Sandschafer, founder and interim executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) a coalition of families fighting for social and economic justice.

Sandschafer said that the 287(g) program in the jails has provided an incentive for local police to arrest undocumented immigrants for minor violations like traffic stops, so they could be deported.

Rosa Gutirrez, a U.S. citizen and resident of Maryvale, a predominantly Latino community that has been severely affected by the economic meltdown, joined the protests.

She blamed the former governors immigration policies in Arizona, such as employer sanctions and 287(g) agreements for the crisis the state faces.

Since she started attacking Latinos, Phoenix is in ruins, said Gutirrez, 48. Everybody is leaving and the businesses are closed. We dont have work. Before they started doing that, this place was the American dream.

Another official in the Obama administration was also the subject of protest yesterday.

Attorney General Eric Holder was in Phoenix for a mortgage fraud summit and couldnt avoid questions about the status of a Department of Justice investigation into racial profiling by Arpaios office.

Holder said that the investigation was serious.

"Our civil rights division is working on it in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's Office here in Arizona, and I expect that we will produce results, but at this point the investigation is ongoing, he said.

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