Angered by Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants, thousands of protesters marched through central Phoenix on Saturday, urging Washington to block the new state law they call racist.
Civil rights and labor group activists from across the United States -- carrying banners that read: "Obama Keep Your Promise" -- rallied to protest the law, which requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.
The Arizona law comes at a difficult time for President Barack Obama, who has failed so far to deliver on his promise to Hispanic voters of an immigration overhaul. His Democratic Party faces congressional elections in November.
"He can stop this. He promised to be fair with us, and he is not doing anything," said Silvia Andrade, 52, a business owner who drove to the protest from California.
Activists want Obama to order federal authorities not to accept custody of illegal immigrants detained under the law.
They also want the Obama administration to revoke the so-called 287g agreement, which deputizes officers from local police agencies to enforce federal immigration laws.
The Arizona law seeks to push illegal immigrants from the desert state, a major corridor for migrant and drug smugglers crossing the border from Mexico. The measure is supported by a solid majority of voters both in Arizona and nationally.
Advocates of the law -- due to take effect on July 29, subject to legal challenges -- have also planned a protest in Phoenix, set for late on Saturday.
Posters and Pinatas
Opponents of the law charge it is unconstitutional and will lead to racial profiling of Hispanics, who make up about a third of Arizona's population. Roughly 11 million people are thought to be living in the United States illegally.
"We want to stop the spread of the law around the country," said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, one of the organizers of the march.
Many activists at the protest wore T-shirts reading: "Indocumentado" -- undocumented in Spanish. Some carried U.S. flags and posters that said: "Legalize Arizona."
One group had a pinata plastered with a picture of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, and the words "Racism is ugly."
Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have both expressed concerns over the state law, and speculation the administration could challenge it grew this week after officials met with a legal team appointed by Brewer.
Serafin Cabrera, 39, a Mexican construction worker living in Phoenix, said he was marching to send a message to Obama.
"We want him to overrule the law," Cabrera said, speaking in Spanish. "He had the support of us all to get where he is. He made a promise on immigration reform, but he hasn't acted."
ReutersLast Mod: 30 Mayıs 2010, 17:37