Arizona amends disputed immigration law
Arizona's governor signed a follow-up bill Friday approved by the state's legislators to revise a sweeping law against illegal immigration that passed last week.
Gov. Jan Brewer said the changes should quell concerns that the measure will lead to racial profiling.
The measure signed into law last week 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 States illegally.
The follow-up bill signed by Brewer makes a number of changes that she said should lay to rest concerns of opponents.
"These new statements make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal, and will not be tolerated in Arizona," she said in a statement.
Lawyers whose clients have filed lawsuits challenging the initial law did not immediately return calls for comment.
The changes include one strengthening restrictions against using race or ethnicity as the basis for questioning by police.
Another change states that immigration-status questions would only follow a law enforcement officer's stopping, detaining or arresting a person while enforcing another law. The earlier law had referred to a "contact" with police.
Another change specifies that possible violations of local bylaws can trigger questioning on immigration status.
Amendments billed as clarifications
Both the law and the changes to it will take effect July 29 unless blocked by a court or referendum filing.
The latest bill's sponsor, state Senator Russell Pearce, said the revisions would not change how the law is implemented but provide clarifications on intent to make the bill more defensible in court.
"There will be no profiling," Pearce said in an interview.
Pearce said the change from the "contact" wording doesn't require a formal arrest before police can begin questioning someone about their immigration status, but it does help make it clear that racial profiling is not allowed.
"You have to have a real, legitimate reason based on some violation or some suspicious activity based on some legitimate reason. It cannot be just on how you look."
State Representative Ben Miranda, a Democrat and an attorney who is helping to represent a group of Latino clergy who are behind one of three lawsuits filed Thursday to challenge the law, said the Republican-led legislature's approach to illegal immigration is misguided.
"All parts of Arizona cry out for law enforcement that is reasonable and directed at the most serious crimes that we have in the community," Miranda said Thursday night. "The racial profiling element is real."
Democratic state Representative Kyrsten Sinema said the new wording regarding local bylaws could spur complaints of racial profiling based on complaints about cars parked on lawns and debris in yards.
Organizers of two referendum campaigns challenging the original law have said they will adjust their filings to reflect new provisions added by the legislature.