La Raza President: Immigration Bill ‘Would Make Living in Arizona a Police State’ for Hispanics

By Pete Winn | April 22, 2010 | 6:27 PM EDT

Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, said that universal health care should be available to all people in the United States, including those who are in the country illegally. ( Starr)

( – The head of the National Council of LaRaza pleaded with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Thursday not to sign into law a bill that could become the toughest immigration statute in the nation.

“It perpetuates the fantasy that we can detain and deport millions of people from our country as a solution to our immigration problems and it propagates the notion that immigrants who are working hard in the Arizona economy are a criminal element to be rounded up and incarcerated,” LaRaza President and CEO Janet Murguia said during a telephone news conference. 

The bill, which could be signed into law by the weekend, would grant police the ability to check the legal status of people they reasonably suspect are illegal immigrants. 

“(I)t will make living in Arizona a police state for Hispanic Americans and legal residents,” she said.

Murguia, head of one of the nation’s largest Hispanic advocate organizations, accused the bill of promoting racism – and said it was sure to lead to racial profiling. 

“Do I, because my name is Murguia, have to carry papers now to prove my right to be here when I visit Arizona?” she asked. 

But Brian Griffith, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, said Arizona is attempting to do on the state level what the federal government should be, but is failing to do: control the border.

“Obviously, we want a system that protects the United States from illegal immigrants coming across the border, and also coming across through visas, so you need border controls – internal controls,” Griffith told 

“The best case scenario is to have the federal government make those controls –and have them work. However, in this case, Arizona is filling the void of the federal government’s failure to assume responsibility,” Griffith said. 

“The point isn’t to deport millions of illegals all at once – the point is to make it an unattractive option for illegals to come, to begin with,” he added. 

“Obviously, not all illegal immigrants in Arizona are ‘criminal elements’ -- outside of their illegal entry; but at the same time, that does not give them the right to be residents of Arizona,” Griffith said. “So you need laws to deter that fact.”

The Arizona law is not designed, he said, to allow police to check IDs just to find out the immigration status of an individual -- Hispanic or otherwise – simply for the sake of doing so. 

“They have to be committing some kind of criminal act,” he added. 

Griffith said he believes that Arizona would be extremely careful in how it utilizes the law.

"They (Arizona authorities) don’t want to be seen as racially profiling people," he told "They want to use that law responsibly so they can continue to use it.”

Murguia and other civil rights leaders, meantime, promised immediate court challenges if the Arizona bill becomes law.