Immigration debate heats up in South Philly

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The immigration debate was boiling in South Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Hundreds gathered to make sure their voices were heard. Some were arguing Arizona's immigration law is necessary to protect our border while others were denouncing it as unconstitutional.

"It's basically legalizing racial profiling; we should all be well past that in our society," Alyssia Crissman of Port Richmond said.

"I'm outraged the federal government would sue the state of Arizona because they can't do their job," Jackie Donney of Newtown, Pa. said.

As protesters sang "This Land is Your Land," a radio show and the owner of Geno's Steaks held a fundraiser to raise money for Arizona's legal defense fund, in the wake of the Obama administration's decision to sue the state.

The law, sparking heated debate, takes effect in Arizona at the end of this month and requires officers to question people about their immigration status, if there's reason to suspect they're in the US illegally.

Geno's owner, Joey Vento, who gained nationwide attention for requiring customers to order in English at his steakhouse, explains why he got involved, "If you give them amnesty, you're just smacking the people who play by the rules."

Separated by the street, supporters and protesters flooded the sidewalks. Both sides tell Action News how important it was to attend this event because even though Arizona is across the country, they say the effects of this legislation will be felt here in Pennsylvania.

There is a house bill in Pennsylvania very similar to Arizona's law and in a legal brief filed by Michigan's Attorney General, Pennsylvania is one of the nine states backing Arizona in Federal Court. The brief says states have the authority to enforce immigration laws and protect their borders.

The first major hearing in one of the seven legal challenges to Arizona's new immigration law will be held Thursday.

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philadelphia, pennsylvania, immigration, local/state, katherine scott
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