Will Arizona's Law Lead to Racial Profiling?

Junior Perez, 19, an U.S. citizen, thinks the new legislation will lead to racial profiling.
Kym Rivera brought her children to a demonstration today against Arizona's new immigration law. Her husband, born in El Salvador, was sworn in as a citizen last October.

"He became a citizen of the United States," Rivera said. "That's their dream!"

But Rivera fears he'll still become a suspect when police are searching for illegal immigrants under the new law, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.

"He worries that he'll be asked to leave this country because he was not born here. That he'll be separated from his children from his wife of 15 years," Rivera said. "Why should my husband worry?"

He shouldn't worry says Steve Montenegro, himself an immigrant from El Salvador and now a member of the State Legislature. Montenegro voted for the controversial immigration law which he says opponents are distorting.

"That it is a race issue, anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant bill," Montenegro said. "It couldn't be farther from the truth."

What the bill does he says is give police another tool to fight crime that comes with the flood across the border.

"It's going crazy here," Montenegro said. "And the federal government time and again failed tremendously to protect its citizens and secure the border."

Arizona Immigration Conflict Heats Up

Arizona Senator John McCain echoed that when he responded to criticism of the state laws in Washington Monday.

"If you don't like the legislation that the legislature passed and the governor signed in Arizona, then carry out the federal responsibilities which are to secure the border," McCain said.

Junior Perez, 19, has heard the assurances that the law is aimed only at illegal immigrants. He's not convinced.

"If I'm a citizen or not, I'll always be Mexican," Perez said.

He is a citizen, born in Arizona. His parents are legal immigrants from Mexico are citizens, too, in a state where more than 30 percent of the population is Hispanic and many feel the sting of racism in the new law.

"They're just focusing on us because we're brown, and it's devastating," Perez said.

While opponents of the new law promise to continue demonstrations the battle now moves to the courts. Legal challenges are based on the argument that under the Constitution, only the federal government has the power to control immigration.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.