PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is nearing a deadline to act on the nation's toughest state legislation against illegal immigration.
A Saturday deadline was set when the legislation landed on her desk Monday. She can sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without her signature.
Brewer could not have appeared before a more determined crowd Thursday night, in its opposition to the new immigration enforcement bill.
“Governor, we ask, no we respectfully demand that you veto senate bill 1070,” said Erica Gonzalez-Melendez from the podium. She is the Chairwoman of the Board for Chicanos Por La Causa, a very powerful Latino community organization.
Before the governor could even get into the hall for the CPLC anniversary dinner, she faced a gauntlet of protesters outside the Sheraton in downtown Phoenix.
But the ballroom may have offered even less comfort.
“What sits before you on your desk is the most hateful legislation directed at Latinos in the recent history of our state. Governor, tonight we want to remind you that we vote too,” said Gonzalez-Melendez.
Brewer followed those pointed words with her prepared speech, but offered little to tip her hand.
“While I’m not prepared to announce a decision on Senate Bill 1070 this evening, I can tell you what I decide will be based on doing what’s right for Arizona,” said Brewer.
As she walked out, the governor refused to answer questions, but she could hear the crowd inside still chanting, “Veto, Veto!”
Even though she was long gone, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon offered the governor his parting shots.
“I have to believe in your heart that you don’t want to be a puppet governor whose strings are being pulled by the likes of Russell Pierce and Joe Arpaio,” said Gordon.
Obama: Arizona Bill 'Misguided'
President Barack Obama says the government must enact immigration reform at the national level -- or leave the door open to "irresponsibility by others."
Obama said a failure to act will lead to more of what he called "misguided" efforts like an immigration bill in Arizona.
If signed by the state's governor, the bill would require police to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally.
Obama said he has instructed his administration to examine the Arizona bill to see if it violates people's civil rights.
Obama spoke a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden for 24 active duty service members.
He said the service members represent true patriotism for having served a country they could not yet call their own.
Protesters Hold Vigil At Capitol
Capitol Police estimated 1,200 students and activists demonstrated at the Arizona State Capitol Thursday in protest of Senate Bill 1070.
Several hundred demonstrators remained on the lawn of the state capitol after dark to hold a candlelight vigil.
Jacob Hernandez said he led a group to the capitol from South Mountain High School after class let out for the day. When asked what he’d want to say to Governor Jan Brewer, he said, “I would tell her, 'Yes, I understand Arizona has flaws in immigration reform.' But what I would tell her is that this is not the answer. We are not criminals,” said Hernandez.
A small group of counter protesters also stood by through much of the day. Many argued the governor can’t afford not to sign the immigration bill.
“The federal government has let this build. The state is in shambles. (We have) ID theft, rapes, murders and it’s coming from over the border. It’s time we seal it and it’s time we clean house,” said one counter protester who would not identify herself.
The protest began late Thursday morning. Students said they heard about the protest via text message and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Many ditched class to march down to the capitol.
The protestors used drums, megaphones, signs and song in an effort to send a message to Brewer -- asking her not to sign the controversial immigration enforcement bill.
Eric Escalera, a student at Maryvale High School, said at first, he did not want to skip school, but ultimately decided to join the demonstration.
“If you want to make a difference, there are sacrificed that have to be made,” said Escalera.
Mayra Morales, one of the organizers, said she is asking the governor to veto the bill because this issue is very personal for her.
“I don’t want to be racially profiled. Our families will live in fear. Our community will live in fear,” said Morales.
SB 1070 would make it a crime for illegal immigrants to not have alien registration documents. It also would require police to question people about their immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the country illegally.
Students Walk Out In Immigration Protest
More than a thousand students walked out of several Valley high schools Thursday to protest the bill.
The protest was organized via Twitter and Facebook, according to students who left their campuses and headed for the state Capitol.
"Its say's walk out, everybody walk out at eleven and meet by security," Trevor Browne High School student Victor Ramos said referring to a text message he received Thursday morning.
The move came despite loudspeaker warnings from their principal to stay in class.
"That's the whole point, is that we can't stand for this," Ramos said.
Carrying protest signs, the students then started a 4-mile-long march to the state Capitol.
"I'm pretty sure half of the school is out here," a Maryvale student said as he walked along Thomas Road.
Students represented at least five area schools: North High, Cesar Chavez High, Metro Tech High, Trevor Browne and Maryvale High School.
Hours earlier, Maricopa County attorney Rick Romley said at a news briefing he will ask Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the immigration bill.
Romley said that he's concerned about potential civil rights violations.
Click to view image: 'bcfc6be12d99-23235112_480x360.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|