Opponents of Arizona's landmark immigration law took note of the measure's third anniversary Tuesday by urging lawmakers to repeal the legislation that sparked a national debate over border security and immigrants' rights.
The hard-line plan was signed into law in 2010 after years of complaints that the federal government hadn't done enough to address Arizona's role as the nation's busiest point of illegal entry.
Democratic state Sen. Steve Gallardo, who has tried unsuccessfully for years to get the Republican-led Legislature to overturn the law, said the legislation known as Senate Bill 1070 helped unite national lawmakers and business leaders against such policies, which he said went too far. Gallardo attributed President Barack Obama's victory in 2012 partially to voters incited over the law that sparked waves of protests and ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"If there was one thing we can be thankful for is that 1070 woke up the sleeping giant," Gallardo said. "It motivated Latino voters to get involved."
Latino activists gathered for a vigil Tuesday night at the Arizona Capitol lawn to drive support for federal immigration changes.
"The goal of the event is to raise awareness about the fact that immigration is about people ... and to urge the Arizona Legislature to repeal SB1070 and leave the responsibility of implementing and enforcing U.S. immigration policy to federal authorities," said organizer James Garcia.
Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh said Arizona's "self-deportation" style measure is still crucial to fighting illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, Obama and Republicans and Democrats in Congress are pushing for the nation's first immigration overhaul in nearly three decades. Republicans, including Kavanagh, portray the proposed national law as amnesty that will trigger future waves of illegal immigration and put a strain on state and federal social service budgets.
Arizona's law represents "a message to the federal government that we want security," said Kavanagh, one of the measure's sponsors.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down sections of the law in 2012, including the requirement that immigrants obtain or carry immigration registration papers. It upheld a requirement that Arizona officers question the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally.