A controversial bill approved by Arizona’s State Legislature pushing the immigration debate to the forefront of the U.S. Senate.
President Barack Obama on Friday criticized the legislation, which would allow Arizona’s state police to check the documents of people they suspect are illegal immigrants. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, has said she will decide whether to sign the legislation soon.
The issue has galvanized people on both sides of one of the most divisive issues in American politics just as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) mulls whether his chamber should move to immigration reform or climate change legislation after it completes work on a Wall Street reform bill.
Obama on Friday called for Congress to continue to work toward immigration reform, saying the failure to act on a federal level has led to “misguided” efforts to curb illegal immigration, like the one in Arizona.
“If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts around the country,” Obama said.
Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for servicemen and -women in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said he has instructed his administration to “closely monitor the situation” in Arizona and to “examine the civili rights and other implications of this legislation.”
“The recent efforts in Arizona … threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans as well as the trust in police and their communities that are so crucial to keeping us safe,” Obama said.
Hispanic lawmakers have increased the pressure on the administration and Democratic leaders to pick up immigration in recent weeks. They have also criticized the proposed Arizona law, and urged Obama to recommend a veto to Brewer, or to threaten to cut off federal funds if the bill becomes law.