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After Arizona Immigration Ruling, Panic And Protests

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When the Supreme Court ruled on Arizona's immigration law this week, it left standing a provision requiring police to check the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons. The ruling has already created a chilling effect in the state, and it has sparked protests.

Protesters against Senate Bill 1070 stand in front of the Arizona state building in Tucson holding signs saying "Reject Racism" and "Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote." Patricia Carpio's sign says "Resistencia."

"[It] means ... we're not going to put up with this. It's just not going to happen. Just like the civil rights movement, we're just taking it a whole different way," Carpio says.

They're handing out fliers announcing meetings for the Coalition to Resist and Repeal SB 1070. The protesters are emboldened by the Supreme Court ruling, but they say others are afraid to go public.

"We are getting a lot of people who are desperate, who are panicking right now so I have to calm them down," says Maria Carrasco, who runs a telephone hotline for the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Coalition).

Carrasco says she's gotten about 30 calls in the past few days from people who are undocumented or from their family members who are afraid police will stop them and turn them over to immigration officers. They are worried even though the Obama administration says it won't respond to many local law enforcement calls.

"I give them phone numbers of lawyers, the consulate. Know you have the right to remain silent. Just give your name and that's it. Remain silent," Carrasco says.

Everyone I spoke with here is a U.S. citizen, legal resident or visa holder. But some members of Francisco Miranda's family are undocumented. What will he and his son, also Francisco, do when the law takes effect?

"If it ... gets ugly ... maybe we'll leave," Miranda says. Asked if he would go to Mexico, he says, no — he would go to California.

That's exactly what the sponsors of SB 1070 want. It says right in the law: attrition though enforcement — get the undocumented to leave Arizona.

"I think it's a very good thing because I don't believe that people who came here illegally should be allowed to stay," says Arizona state Rep. John Kavanaugh, a sponsor of SB 1070.

No one knows how many people left the state two years ago after the bill was passed. Kavanaugh is hopeful the exodus will resume now that the threat of police action is real.

"Which doesn't solve the national illegal immigrant problem but sure helps Arizona," Kavanaugh says.

Back on the Tucson street corner, protesters aren't buying it. Many say even if older immigrants are afraid, young people — especially those who've grown up in the U.S. — are not.

"I came out all the way from Florida and it's because there is resistance and I think people really do want things to change," says Genesis Lara, a college student in Arizona for the summer. .

So as much as there's a chilling effect from SB 1070, there's also mobilization to keep families here, to report suspected racial profiling and to keep challenging the law in court.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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