The Arizona Legislature has wrapped up its session, paving the way for its tough new immigration law to take effect in 90 days, but with some changes amid a firestorm of criticism over the measure.
. In their final hours in session, state legislators made some last-minute revisions to the law, restricting police from questioning someone strictly based on their race or ethnicity. But lawmakers also ruled that civil complaints, such as an unmowed lawn, could trigger questioning about immigration status.
A growing number of lawsuits are being filed in opposition to the law.
Opponents of the controversial new Arizona immigration law have already filed legal action to block it.
A lawsuit by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders seeks an injunction preventing authorities from enforcing of the law. The group says the law violates federal due process rights because it stipulates a suspect can be held before being convicted.
Additionally, another group has filed papers for a referendum drive that potentially could delay the passage of the bill. The group has until late July or early August, the same time the law is scheduled to go into effect, to find the 76,000 signatures that would delay the law until a vote could be held, possibly not until 2012.
Meanwhile, people in Arizona, like the rest of the country, are bitterly divided.
Arizona Sheriff's Deputy Keith Henry sees the problem the law intends to combat every day.
"Yeah there are a lot of illegals out here," he said.
He and the more than 3,000 members of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department are on the front lines in the battle against illegal immigration and say human smuggling is a huge problem in the area.
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In Phoenix Wednesday, police rounded up 70 suspected illegal immigrants, all allegedly staying at a drop house.
Maricopa County is known for its tough crackdowns on illegal immigration and for its tough-talking sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for racial profiling over arrests of illegal immigrant suspects.
Arpaio supports the new law.
"The minute you cross the border, you are a criminal. You have violated the law. So for years and years, that law has been ignored," Arpaio said. "So now we have the state law."
Arpaio said he will enforce the new law, as he does all others.
But Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff in neighboring Pima County, said it goes too far.
"What they've done with the law is if any citizen thinks that you're not enforcing the law, they can sue you," Dupnik said. "And we already are in a position to get sued and they already have sued sheriffs in other parts of this state for profiling. So we're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't. ... The law, as I have said, is unwise. It's stupid and it's racist. ... From my point of view, it's a national embarrassment."
Passions are running hot on both sides of the debate, with protesters planning rallies in 70 cities this weekend.
Protesters even greeted baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field in Chicago this week, where the Diamondbacks played the Cubs.
Nevertheless, some states are considering following Arizona's lead.