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Friday, April 30, 2010

Some Hispanic Americans hope law deters illegal immigration

Phoenix, Arizona (CNN) -- Sue Schwartz says she's been called a racist so many times she doesn't mind the label anymore. If wanting immigrants to enter the country legally, like her great-grandparents from Mexico, and obey the laws of the land makes her racist, then so be it, she says firmly.

"I'm getting to the point I wear it with pride," says Schwartz, a lifelong Arizonan who has warily watched the growth of the illegal immigrant population in the state over the course of her life.

About 500,000 unauthorized immigrants were believed to live in Arizona in 2008, and 11.9 million nationwide, up from 3.5 million nationwide in 1990, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report published in 2009.

This year, the tide is finally turning in her favor, she says, with the passage of SB 1070, aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

The new law requires immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there is reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally.

Read the full text of Senate Bill 1070 (PDF)

"I hope it makes a lot of them leave on their own, self-deportation. Hopefully that'll open up more jobs. There's a lot of people here who will do menial jobs -- maybe not pick lettuce, but these people aren't just picking lettuce any more," Schwartz

The new law also targets those who hire illegal immigrant day laborers or knowingly transport them.

Schwartz, a retired USPS worker, says undocumented workers are taking jobs from citizens like her teenage granddaughter, who hasn't been able to find a job since she began looking after she turned 15.

"She can't even work at the Hometown Buffet if she doesn't speak Spanish. How fair is that?" she said.

But Schwartz and some other Americans with Hispanic backgrounds who spoke with CNN say the problem with illegals isn't just the jobs they take. It's how they're overrunning border towns like Phoenix, turning them into "mini-Mexicos" with their trash-filled streets and loud music, according to Schwartz.

Of equal concern to her friend, Martha Payan, is how she says illegal immigrants "fleece" government coffers by collecting welfare on multiple children, or vanish without a trace after an arrest or a hospital visit.

The two women, who became acquainted through various demonstrations in the metro Phoenix area, met Thursday to discuss their views outside the Maricopa County Municipal building, as more backlash against the controversial immigration law continued to flood the city.

Latin pop star Shakira arrived in town Thursday to discuss SB 1070 with Mayor Phil Gordon, who has vowed to fight the law. In the athletic corner, MLB team Chicago Cubs announced it would not play the Diamondbacks unless the bill is overturned. All this, the day after Mexico urged its citizens not to travel to Arizona, in a rare reversal of roles.

Sporting a white baseball cap that that reads, "100% American Citizen," Schwartz says she believes that SB 1070 came about because law enforcement in Phoenix was fed up over not being able to ask suspects about their immigration status. (continues here at CNN)

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