Supporting the Rule of Law: Hundreds gather to support AZ illegals crackdown law

Michelle Price - Associated Press Writer - 6/6/2010 6:20:00 AMPHOENIX - Hundreds of people supporting Arizona's new law cracking down on illegal immigration rallied near the state Capitol on Saturday afternoon in soaring temperatures.

Hundreds of motorcycle riders kicked off the downtown Phoenix rally by riding in a procession around the Capitol. Supporters waved American flags and some carried signs that read "What part of illegal don't they understand?"

The rally's turnout fell far short of the march organized by opponents of the law last weekend, when an estimated 20,000 people gathered.

Demonstrators on Saturday sweated as temperatures reached 105 degrees. Some shaded themselves with umbrellas and clamored to buy cold water and ice cream from vendors.

"For them to come here when it's over 100 degrees and stand in the heat _ it's awesome," said 32-year-old Stephanie Colbert of Glendale.

Colbert, who works in a restaurant, said those who disagree with the law and boycott Arizona are misguided because they hurt the immigrant community they aim to support.

"The hospitality industry has a very large population of immigrants, legal and illegal," she said. "It's those people's jobs that are in jeopardy."

Colbert and her mother, 53-year-old Pattie Sheahan of Phoenix, said they strongly support the new law, which requires police conducting traffic stops or questioning people about possible legal violations to ask about their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" they're in the country illegally.

"Everybody needs to obey the same laws," Sheahan said. "If you want to come here, there's ways to do it. Do it the right way."

The law, which goes into effect July 29, will also make it a state crime to be in the country illegally or to impede traffic while hiring day laborers, regardless of the worker's immigration status. It would become a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit work.

Critics have said the law, known as S.B. 1070, will invite racial profiling, while supporters have said it will help fight illegal immigration.

Bill Savage of Phoenix wore a T-shirt that read "Viva los 1070." He said he attended the rally to support Gov. Jan Brewer.

"We didn't do anything new. We didn't write a new law," the 41-year-old said. "We simply stated what is supposed to be the federal law, and said we're going to enforce it at the state level."

Brewer has ordered a state police training board to prepare training standards to prevent racial profiling in enforcing the law.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, perhaps best known for his efforts targeting illegal immigrants, drew loud chants of "Joe, Joe, Joe!" when he spoke to the audience at the rally.

One man yelled to him: "We've got your back, Joe!"

Arpaio praised lawmakers for passing the law and reiterated that he'll lock up as many illegal immigrants as his deputies can arrest.

"We'll put tents from here to Mexico," he told the crowd, referring to his famed Tent City, a section of the county jail where all inmates are housed in surplus military tents.

The Pennsylvania-based group Voice of the People USA organized the demonstration, which it touted as a grassroots effort. Attendees traveled from every region of the U.S., Voice of the People president Daniel Smeriglio said.

Former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado and GOP state Sen. Russell Pearce of Mesa, the author of the law, also spoke at the rally.

Illegal immigration is an expensive problem _ and it's getting more and more attention, said Tom Dodson, 48, of Tempe.

"I do feel that the public is really starting to take notice of it," he said. "Now they're starting to realize that a lot of money's being spent on these issues."

Matthew Perdie of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., said he's been walking across the country, from New York to California, to draw attention to "big government." He decided to attend the rally to show his support for the immigration law.

"We've got a lot of problems with violence near the border," the 24-year-old said. "It needs to be stopped."