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Arizona legislature calls for crackdown on immigrants

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  • Greg Cannon
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2006

      Arizona calls for crackdown as immigrants protest
      Mon May 1, 2006 6:57pm ET17

      By David Schwartz

      PHOENIX (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Arizona, a
      fast-growing border state that is the biggest U.S.
      entry point for illegal immigrants, called for a
      crackdown on undocumented workers on Monday, as
      millions nationwide protested to demand new rights and
      respect for foreign residents.

      Republican legislators prepared to introduce
      potentially one of the toughest state anti-immigrant
      proposals, a $100 million package that would deploy
      National Guard troops to the desert border with Mexico
      and use radar to track anyone trying to sneak across
      the border.

      "I am not just going to stand by while this country is
      being destroyed," said state Rep. Russell Pearce, a
      Republican and outspoken opponent of illegal

      Hundreds of people protested in Phoenix, the nation's
      fifth-largest city, joining millions across the United
      States who took to the streets and boycotted work and
      shops to focus the nation's attention on the
      contribution of an estimated 12 million undocumented
      workers to the economy.

      As the 2,000-mile (3,219-km) U.S. border with Mexico
      has been fortified in heavily-populated areas,
      immigrants increasingly have entered the United States
      by crossing the Arizona desert.

      Arizona recorded more than half of the 1.2 million
      arrests made last fiscal year along the frontier.

      The southwestern state has become a mecca for tourists
      and retirees fleeing harsh winters, and relies heavily
      on illegal immigrants, especially in the construction
      and service industries, said Tom Rex, associate
      director of the Center for Business Research at
      Arizona State University.

      He said the state needs more workers. "In certain
      industries, we could have even offered higher wages
      and still would not have been able to fill those
      jobs," he said.

      The bill being prepared on Monday would include strict
      sanctions for employers who knowingly hire illegal

      "This is the kind of thing that the public has been
      saying it wants for a long time," Pearce said.

      Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, has already
      come out against parts of the package, but Republican
      lawmakers told Reuters they would seek to put the
      measure before state voters as early as November if
      she vetoes it.

      Arizona is home to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps,
      a self-styled citizens group that patrols stretches of
      the border with Mexico, and state voters in 2004
      approved an initiative requiring voter applicants to
      prove their citizenship when registering.

      "We really do feel like our state has been overrun,"
      said Kathy McKee, who founded and led effort behind
      that initiative.
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