PHOENIX — Arodi Berrelleza isn’t one of the targets of Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law — he’s a U.S. citizen.
But the 18-year-old high school student from Phoenix said he’s afraid he’ll be arrested anyway if police see him driving around with friends and relatives, some of them illegal immigrants.
“If a cop sees them and they look Mexican, he’s going to stop me,” Berrelleza said. “What if people are U.S. citizens? They’re going to be asking them if they have papers because of the color of their skin.”
Berrelleza’s concerns were echoed at rallies in the state Saturday, a day after Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that requires police to question people about their immigration status — including asking for identification — if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.
The new law, which will take effect in late July or early August, was cheered by many, including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose tough crackdowns have made him a hero in the anti-illegal immigration community.
He said it gives him new authority to detain undocumented migrants who aren’t accused of committing any other crimes.
“Now if we show they’re illegal, we can actually arrest them and put them in our jails,” Arpaio said.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s office said Saturday that “the Mexican government condemns the approval of the law” and “the criminalization of migration.” It said the law will serve as an obstacle as Mexico and Arizona try to solve the shared problems along the border.
A handful of protesters lingered at the state Capitol Saturday morning, with a bigger rally expected to draw hundreds this afternoon.
Opponents of the law also gathered in Tucson outside the campaign headquarters of U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who opposes the measure and said his staff has been flooded with phone calls, some from people threatening violence and shouting racial slurs.
Gov. Brewer has ordered state officials to develop a training course for officers to learn what constitutes reasonable suspicion someone is in the U.S. illegally. Civil rights advocates vowed to challenge the law in court, saying it would lead to racial profiling despite the governor’s assurances.
Supporters dismissed concerns about racial profiling, saying the law prohibits the use of race or nationality as the sole basis for an immigration check.
State Sen. Rebecca Rios, a Phoenix Democrat and fourth-generation Arizonan, said she’s concerned about her 14-year-old son being harassed by police because of his brown skin, black hair and dark-brown eyes.
“I don’t want my son or anyone else’s son targeted simply because of their physical characteristics,” Rios said. “There’s no reason I should have to carry around any proof of citizenship, nor my son.”