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December 21, 2014

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Group plans Arizona boycott, criticizes new immigration law

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Tiffany Gibson

Nevada state Sen. Mo Denis speaks at a news conference Monday about Arizona’s new immigration law.

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Reform Immigration for America holds a news conference Monday to discuss Arizona's new immigration law.

Nevada immigrants angry over Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signing Senate Bill 1070 on Friday said today they will boycott Arizona and try to overturn the law, hoping for the federal government’s support.

Las Vegas-area members of Reform Immigration for America joined hundreds in Arizona this past weekend in protest of the bill. During a news conference today at the La Iglesia Amistad Cristiana Church, 901 E. Stewart Ave., the group said it hopes to prevent a similar measure from gaining momentum in Nevada.

“As Nevadans, a number of us went to Arizona to stand with our brothers and sisters down there to support them and their fight against this,” said Michael Flores, state director of Reform Immigration for America. “This bill is completely unjust and we are not in favor it; we definitely don’t want to see this in Nevada.”

The bill would make it a crime for anyone to be in the country illegally and require police to question people about their immigrant status if they suspect they are here illegally. Flores called this racial profiling.

But supporters of the law, set to take effect in late July or August, say it is necessary to protect Arizonans from a litany of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Arizona is home to an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants.

Supporters have dismissed concerns about profiling, saying the law prohibits the use of race or nationality as the sole basis for an immigration check.

Flores said the group was pulled over by police while on the way back to Las Vegas from Arizona. He said officers questioned them and searched their bags.

“Martin Luther King Jr. once said an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and that is a big reason why we’re working so hard to make sure this doesn’t come here,” Flores said. “Our community is ready to mobilize.”

Beatriz Aguirre, a student at the College of Southern Nevada, said she spent the week in Arizona, attending vigils at the state capitol in protest of the bill.

“We ate there, we slept there, we worked there,” she said. “We did everything we could to stop this bill.”

Aguirre said many in the Hispanic community were angry when Brewer signed the bill, but she said she isn’t giving up. She said protesters stayed another night and formulated strategies on how to get the law reversed.

“We started this new civil rights movement and said, ‘We don’t stop, we won’t give up, and what we’re fighting for is comprehensive immigration reform,’” she said.

Resident Melissa Munzo didn’t go to Arizona but said she was devastated as she watched Brewer sign the bill on TV. She said SB 1070 is a step backward for immigration reform. She said it reminded her of discrimination against Jews during World War II.

“In the years of the Nazis, they put stars on the foreheads of Jews,” she said. “What are they going to put on our foreheads for Hispanics?”

Nevada State Sen. Mo Denis said the next step is putting pressure on the federal government to enact a law that overpowers any state laws. He said legislators know that immigration reform is a pressing issue.

Flores said Nevada politicians and candidates who are in favor of the law should rethink their positions.

“We’re putting a callout to all of these elected officials that if you do pursue this legislation, you will not be elected or re-elected,” Flores said.

Gov. Jim Gibbons issued a statement today urging President Barack Obama to enforce federal immigration laws. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded, saying Republicans have blocked attempts by Democrats to reform immigration.

Reform Immigration for America has scheduled a May 1 march in Las Vegas to protest the Arizona law. It will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Commercial Center, 953 E. Sahara Ave., and end at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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