Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a controversial immigration bill into law today that will give local law enforcement greater authority to ferret out and arrest illegal immigrants.
Immediately before signing the bill into law, Brewer said that the legislation "represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis that we did not create and that the federal government refuses to fix."
"We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act," Brewer said. "But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation."
The bill takes effect in 90 days after the current legislative sessions over the next several weeks.
"I firmly believe [the law] represents what's best for Arizona," said Brewer. "Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues for the people of our state, to my administration, and to me as your governor and as a citizen."
The signing came just a few hours after President Obama harshly criticized the legislation, calling it "misguided." The president also instructed the Justice Department to examine the Arizona law to see if it would violate civil rights.
Obama criticized the bill at a naturalization ceremony in the White House Rose Garden for active duty service members from 24 countries.
The president said if Congress fails to enact comprehensive immigration reform at the national level, "We will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country."
The absence of a federal resolution of the controversial issue, he said, "opens the door to irresponsibility by others," and he cited "the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans."
So far this year, Congress and the administration have made little progress in advancing legislation on the issue.
After the signing, crowds outside of the state capitol building erupted in anger. Carrying signs and American flags, they marched nearby, protesting the governor's decision.
Brewer defended the law against claims that it is discriminatory, saying that she had worked for weeks to rework the language to strengthen civil rights protections. The governor also issued an executive order to develop training for state law enforcement to prevent racial discrimination or profiling.
"As committed as I am to protecting our state from crime associated with illegal immigration, I am equally committed to holding law enforcement accountable should this statue ever be misused to violate an individual's rights," she said.
The Arizona law makes it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally and allows police to arrest and question suspected undocumented persons about their status without a warrant. It also criminalizes the transporting of an illegal immigrant anywhere in the state, even if by a family member.
Brewer, who faces a tough Republican primary in August, signed the same bill that former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, vetoed three times.
Brewer was under intense pressure to not sign the legislation. Civil rights groups have decried the sweeping measure as opening the door to racial profiling and sowing distrust between Hispanics and the law enforcement groups charged with keeping them safe. Others said the law will pull resources from fighting more-serious crimes.