Utahns rally against Ariz. immigration law

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Anger over Arizona's new immigration law boiled over into the streets of cities across the nation Saturday, including here in Utah.

This year's May Day and Cinco de Mayo celebrations are overshadowed by Latinos' concern over a law they consider racist. A similar bill is in the works in Utah.

Those opposed to the bill rallied at the Centro Civico Mexicano building at 155 S. 600 West in Salt Lake City Saturday. Tensions ran high.

This is not only a political issue, it is a moral issue. It is a human issue.

–Bishop John Wester

"I mean, early on when I was walking to this event I had somebody call me a 'spic' and flipped me off," said Daniel Argueta of West Jordan.

The protesters worry the Arizona law will deepen the divide and subject Latinos to police harassment.

Claudia Brunet is a U.S. citizen who is promoting immigration reform opposite to Arizona's approach. She wants amnesty for illegal aliens.

"I think [the law] is very racist," she said. "They should have their papers. They work and pay their taxes and also claim taxes at the end of the year like everybody else. They need a chance to come out of the shadows."

But state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, has already started writing a bill similar to Arizona's to establish, he says, the rule of law.

"Kind of get rid of this idea that Utah is welcoming illegal aliens," Sandstrom said.

Although some studies have shown illegal aliens produce economic benefits, Sandstrom says they put a burden on schools, welfare and law enforcement.


"What I'm worried about is an influx of illegal aliens into our state, and there's a higher crime rate associated with illegal aliens," he said.

Leading the rally against the Arizona law was Catholic Bishop John Wester. He addressed those gathered at the rally Saturday with a translator by his side.

"This is not only a political issue," he said. "It is a moral issue. It is a human issue."

One man waded into the rally with a provocative sign telling illegals to go home and accusing them of spoiling the country. The crowd closed in on him with competing signs and catcalls.

When it started getting uglier security people escorted him out.

"You notice how they try to block my sign? They don't want to give me my rights. But yet, they're demanding rights and they're not even here legally!" said Thomas Williams of Vernal.

But numerous Hispanics shouted they are legal.

"They forget that this is my land too. I was born here," Argueta said. "Just as much as it is theirs, it is mine as well, and ours."

Rep. Sandstrom says Latinos will not be harassed under his bill because it will specify that some other law must be broken before police can demand proof of legal status.

The ralliers, however, vowed to do everything possible to stop such a law in Utah.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com


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