New Yorkers and immigrant advocates nationwide protested Arizona’s controversial new immigration law Saturday.
Members of the group Make The Road New York in the major immigrant neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens expressed their opposition to the law, which requires Arizona police to question anyone who is suspected to be is in the country illegally.
The measure also allows lawsuits against government agencies that hinder enforcement of immigration laws and makes it illegal to hire undocumented immigrants for day labor.
Protesters said the bill would lead to racial profiling and mistreatment of immigrants. They also called on President Barack Obama and the federal government to take action on immigration reform by May 1, and threatened to campaign against officials who do not take action.
"If they don’t, it will be very clear to our community that xenophobia has won the day," said Ana Maria Archila of Make The Road New York. "It will be very clear to our community that the leadership that we have in this country does not have the political will to actually have a real solution to the broken immigration system. And that clarity will be what we are thinking about in September and November when we go to vote."
"I’m not just mad, I’m more than mad. I feel stigmatized. And President Obama, you are the one who has the power to make something happen," said an undocumented day laborer named Jose to NY1 through an interpreter.
In a statement Friday, Bloomberg said he fears Arizona’s law will cause foreign investment and tourism to drop drastically.
"[M]any people from around the world may think twice before visiting Arizona and subjecting themselves to potential run-ins with the police. As a city, New York may well benefit from another state undermining its own international competitiveness we’re happy to have those businesses and tourists come here….," said the mayor. "Instead of misguided efforts by states, we need Washington to lead the way with comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, promotes economic growth, and honors our American heritage."
The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders Legal Defense Fund was preparing Saturday a federal lawsuit to prevent the state from applying the law.
President Barack Obama also expressed worry that the state law could trample civil rights.
"Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others," said Obama. "And that includes for example the recent efforts in Arizona which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans."
Senator Charles Schumer, the chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, also denounced the measure.
"We need comprehensive immigration reform, but this kind of law, which will be both ineffective and is mean-spirited, is the wrong way to go and I’m opposed to it," said Schumer.
During the bill signing Friday, Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said critics are overreacting and that racial profiling will not be tolerated.
Watch the video here.