Rallies held in East Bay over immigration

July 30, 2010 12:06:45 AM PDT
Arizona's new immigration law went into effect Thursday, minus the most contentious provisions that a judge blocked on Wednesday. The state wasted no time filing an appeal in federal court as demonstrators took to the streets in Phoenix, many peacefully approaching riot police to be arrested. Protests on both sides of the issue took place in the Bay Area as well.

On Thursday evening, the Minutemen gathered to hold a rush-hour demonstration on the overpass above I-580 in Pleasanton. Members of the tea party and Golden Gate Minutemen condemned Wednesday's conjunction of the Arizona law. At another protest in Oakland, the message was much different.

Protesters lined the sidewalk in front of the federal building in Oakland to say the fight over Arizona's immigration law is far from over. The demonstration came one day after a federal judge gutted much of the controversial SB 1070.

"We're still against SB 1070. There's a lot more work to be done. Yesterday's ruling was just a temporary band-aid on the wound," said protester Patricia Zamora.

The Oakland protest was scheduled to coincide with the implementation of Arizona's new law. However, the federal judge blocked most of it, including the part that would allow police officers to check the immigration status of someone they've stopped or arrested.

Steve Kemp with the Golden Gate Minutemen thinks the judge went too far.

"The judge striking down key provisions of the law was pretty predictable. It's part of the process and we're moving forward. We're not giving up," said Kemp.

Hundreds in San Francisco's heavily Latino Mission District cheered the fact that most of its controversial points are on now hold.

"It took away some of the more racist parts of the law, that were more like racial profiling that go after you if you look suspicious, because any of us could look suspicious," said San Francisco protest organizer Berta Hernandez.

The Pleasanton protesters say they have been unfairly labeled racist because they support Arizona's law and want to see the same law in California.

"Oh absolutely, that's what they want to label us, a racist. Oh, I'm a racist because I have an opinion contrary to theirs on the immigration issue," said Mike Jones from the Golden Gate Minutemen.

Many others in the group of Minutemen and tea party activists also said the debate is not about race, it's about fairness, but when the interviews stopped, the conversation changed.

A car wreck occurred on the freeway below and the driver appeared to be Latino. That sparked a round of jokes about his immigration status.

"He's looking for his papers," said a man.

Another woman lodged this complaint, "We were right behind 60 Mexicans so they could go first. Really, they needed a translator so we all had to wait. And second of all, I couldn't find one that had a driver's license or insurance or a baby seat."

While protests play out in the Bay Area and across the country, the legal maneuvering moves to San Francisco's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The 9th Circuit is going to get to this very quickly, but very quickly in appellate terms means that by the time they render a decision, it will be past the first Monday in October and the United States Supreme Court will be in session. Whatever happens in the 9th Circuit, this will go to the Supreme Court," said ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson.

In the end, the protesters in Oakland hope the 9th Circuit rules on more than just a few provisions of the Arizona law.

"As of today in Arizona, it is a crime to drive with an undocumented person in your car," said protester Andrea Mercado. "We won't stop until we see the law abolished and completely done away with."

Expect to see many more of these protests in the weeks and months ahead, while the 9th Circuit Could hear oral arguments by the end of August, but the actual ruling may not come until well into the fall.

The parts of the law that did take effect Thursday make it a crime in Arizona to give a ride to an illegal immigrant or to transport day laborers around the state. Protesters on both sides say they plan to be out in force until this case is decided once and for all.


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