Democrats Blast Arizona Immigration Law

Posted April 23, 2010 at 6:20pm

The Democratic leaders of both chambers on Friday blasted a newly signed Arizona immigration law, saying the measure underscored the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Arizona measure — which Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed into law Friday afternoon — served as “a reminder of the need for urgent, bipartisan action at the federal level to enact comprehensive immigration reform.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the bill “provides another important example of why we need to fix our broken system,” and that “Republicans and Democrats need to work together to pass comprehensive reform that is tough on people who break the law, fair to taxpayers, respectful of civil liberties and practical to implement.”

Hispanic lawmakers have been pressing for action on a comprehensive immigration bill this year. But neither Pelosi nor Reid mentioned a time frame for action in their statements, even though earlier this week there were signs that Reid might try to move a Senate bill this summer.

Brewer’s move drew heavy fire from the leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), who said it would “open the door to discrimination and racial profiling.”

Velázquez’s strongly worded statement derided the new enforcement-focused Arizona law — one of the toughest in the nation — and called again on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill this year.

“This short-sighted law is a step backward in our nation’s ongoing struggle to provide civil rights for all,” Velázquez said, adding that the measure “will do little to secure our border.”

The Arizona proposal, which would make it a crime to be in the country illegally and require anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant to show identification, has generated a fresh wave of calls from within the Latino community for swift Congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform.

Velázquez said enactment “underscores the need to pass federal comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together, strengthens our border security and promotes job growth.”

Brewer’s decision to sign the bill Friday came despite criticism from President Barack Obama, who earlier in the day described it as “misguided.”

The governor’s decision also drew criticism from organized labor — not just of the governor but of Congress for not acting on federal legislation.

“This radical anti-immigration law should be a wake-up call to Congress and the White House,” Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a statement. “Immigration is a national problem that needs a national solution. The lack of action from the Federal government to address the immigration crisis led to this desperate measure by the Arizona legislature.”

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.