Though crowd numbers were not available, the daylong march through Phoenix against the law, SB 1070, appeared larger than the evening rally at a baseball stadium in support of the law.
The law, which requires local and state authorities to determine whether suspects are in the country illegally, has drawn widespread criticism from human-rights groups, some law-enforcement officials, and President Obama, who says it could lead to discrimination.
Yet polls suggest that vast majority of Arizonans – and even a majority of Americans – back the law. In this respect, the evening rally, organized by “tea party” groups, gave voice to opinions not often heard outside Arizona, yet – if the polls are correct – shared by most Americans.
Speakers, addressing a mostly white crowd gathered at the stadium in Tempe, time and again emphasized that SB 1070 is not about race but the rule of law. Attendees echoed the sentiment.
“I have relatives that are legal immigrants, we have friends that are legal immigrants from everywhere, and I think it’s a slap in the face to all of them who have come here legally,” says Tina McClendon, who lives in Phoenix.
Rafael Parra, a construction worker from Tempe, says the law does not give law enforcement officials the authority to engage in racial profiling: “It only allows them to do their job.”
He supports the law because Arizona must get a handle on illegal immigration. Says Mr. Parra: “I see myself as an American, not a Latino.”
A video clip of Mexican President Felipe Calderon repudiating the immigration law before Congress drew loud boos from the crowd and criticism from event speakers who targeted both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.
For Rob Allen of Tempe the law is needed solely to rein in a problem that he feels has gotten out of control. “Federal authorities down at the border are not enforcing the law, and they’ve hamstrung the local authorities at the border down there,” he says.
The law won’t encourage racial profiling because it “strictly prohibits that,” says Mr. Allen, a middle-aged aircraft mechanic.
Among the protesters at the daytime rally in downtown Phoenix, Eddie Aguirre strongly disagrees.
“We want to stop this injustice because it’s racial profiling and it’s 2010,” says Mr. Aguirre, who lives in California. “We don’t see any room for it.”
Event speakers called on President Obama to prevent the law from taking effect on July 29 and demanded that he take up immigration reform.
Timothy Tomczak, a Phoenix resident, dismissed polls that show overwhelming support for the law.
“I have problems with how the polls are conducted,” says Mr. Tomczak. “SB 1070 is a going to be a bad law.”