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
"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