Obama Calls for Immigration Reform, Blasts Measure in Arizona

BY jbreslow  April 23, 2010 at 2:25 PM EDT

Updated 4:30pm ET

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Friday signed into law the nation’s toughest immigration measure, on the heels of President Obama’s criticism of the reform as “misguided.”

In remarks to the press, Brewer said the law “protects every Arizona citizen.”

“We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” Brewer said after signing the law. “But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”

Posted 2:30pm ET

President Obama called on Congress Friday to redouble efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform while criticizing a controversial immigration measure in Arizona as “misguided.”

In remarks at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active service members in the Rose Garden, the president warned that legislation pending in Arizona “threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.”

“If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country,” the president said.

The measure, which has passed both chambers of the Arizona legislature, would require law enforcement to question anyone’s immigration status if “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.”

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, locked in a tough re-election battle, faces a Saturday deadline on the legislation but has yet to indicate whether she intends to sign it into law. KTAR in Phoenix, however, reports Brewer will approve the measure Friday.

With an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants in the state, Arizona has the sixth largest undocumented population in the nation, according to the Pew Research Center. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Russell Pearce of Mesa, said the bill would free police from “political handcuffs” in the effort to rein in illegal immigration.

Civil rights advocates have decried the measure, arguing it would only encourage racial profiling. On Friday, President Obama said he has ordered his staff to “closely monitor the situation” to ensure it does not violate civil liberties.

Jeffrey Brown takes a closer look at the immigration debate on tonight’s broadcast of the NewsHour. Stay tuned.