PHOENIX (AP) - A referendum drive and a lawsuit have emerged as
potential road blocks to Arizona's tough new law on illegal
immigration that has thrust the state into the national spotlight.
The legal action set to be filed Thursday in federal court is
aimed a preventing enforcement of the controversial measure, while
the ballot question could put it on hold until 2012.
Signed last week by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, the law requires
local and state law enforcement to question people about their
immigration status if there's reason to suspect they're in the
country illegally, and makes it a state crime to be in the United
A draft of the proposed lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press
shows the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders
will seek an injunction preventing authorities from enforcing the
law. The group argues federal law pre-empts state regulation of
national borders, and that Arizona's law violates due-process
rights by allowing suspected illegal immigrants to be detained
before they're convicted.
Other Hispanic and civil rights groups, including the American
Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and
Educational Fund, are also planning lawsuits. And U.S. Attorney
General Eric Holder has said the federal government may challenge
On Wednesday, a group filed papers to launch a referendum drive
that could put the law on hold until 2012 if organizers wait until
the last minute to turn in petition signatures needed to get the
measure on the ballot.
Opponents of the law have until late July or early August to
file the more than 76,000 signatures - the same time the law is set
to go into effect. If they get enough signatures, the law would be
delayed until a vote.
But the deadline to put a question on the November ballot is
July 1, and a referendum filing later than that could delay a vote
on the law until 2012, officials with the Secretary of State's
"That would be a pretty big advantage" to the law's opponents,
said Andrew Chavez, head of a Phoenix-based petition-circulating
firm and chairman of the One Arizona referendum campaign.
The legislation's chief sponsor, Republican Rep. Russell Pearce,
said he has no doubt voters will support the new law at the ballot
box, which would then protect it from repeal by the Legislature. In
Arizona, measures approved by voters can only be repealed at the
The clergy group's lawsuit targets a provision allowing police
to arrest illegal-immigrant day laborers seeking work on the street
or anyone trying to hire them, according to the draft. It says the
solicitation of work is protected by the First Amendment.
State Rep. Ben Miranda, a Phoenix Democrat who will serve as the
local attorney on the case, said it was important to file the suit
quickly to show local Latinos and the rest of the country that
there's still a chance the law won't be enacted.
"I think there's real damage being caused right now," Miranda
said. "How do you measure the kind of fear ... going on in many
parts of this community?"
At least three Arizona cities also are considering lawsuits to
block the law. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said the measure would be
"economically devastating," and called on the City Council to sue
the state to stop it from taking effect.
The council rejected that idea Tuesday, yet the mayor told
reporters he retained legal counsel to prepare a lawsuit to file on
behalf of the city.
Tucson leaders also are considering their options to block the
law, and Flagstaff City Councilman Rick Swanson said the city had a
duty to protect its residents who might be targeted.
Meanwhile, the effect of the law continued to ripple beyond
A Republican Texas lawmaker said she'll introduce a measure
similar to the Arizona law next year. Texas Rep. Debbie Riddle of
Tomball said she will push for the law in the January legislative
session, according to Wednesday's editions of the San Antonio
Express-News and Houston Chronicle.
And Republicans running for governor in Colorado and Minnesota
expressed support for the crackdown. "I'd do something very
similar" if elected," Former Rep. Scott McInnis, told KHOW-AM
radio in Denver.