Image: Immigration protests
Matt York  /  AP
Protesters join hands as police block the street in Phoenix on Thursday during a rally against Arizona's new immigration law.
updated 7/30/2010 2:11:21 AM ET 2010-07-30T06:11:21

The showdown over Arizona's immigration law played out in court and on Phoenix's sun-splashed streets on Thursday, as the state sought to reinstate key parts of the measure and angry protesters chanted that they refused to "live in fear." Dozens were arrested.

A federal judge's decision a day earlier to block the strict law's most controversial elements didn't dampen the raging immigration debate.

The judge has been threatened. Protesters rallied in cities from Los Angeles to New York. The sheriff of the state's most populous county vowed to continue targeting illegal immigrants. Lawmakers or candidates in as many as 18 states say they still want to push similar measures.

Along the U.S.-Mexico border, life continued as before, with officials sending back people who were captured while attempting to cross.

In Phoenix, hundreds of the law's opponents massed at a downtown jail, beating on the metal door and forcing sheriff's deputies to call for backup. Officers arrested at least 32 people, and dozens more were detained elsewhere throughout the day.

Activists focused their rage at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the 78-year-old ex-federal drug agent known for his immigration sweeps.

'We will not live in fear'
Outside his downtown office, marchers chanted "Sheriff Joe, we are here. We will not live in fear." One was dressed in a papier-mâche "Sheriff Joe" head and prison garb. Arpaio said he'd continue with a Thursday sweep.

"I'm not going to be intimidated and stopped," he said. "If I have to go out and get in the car, I'll do it."

Sheriff's spokesman Brian Lee said deputies were able to start the sweep Thursday afternoon after dealing with protester. By early evening, said Sgt. Jesse Spurgin, the sheriff's office had arrested 23 protesters for blocking a public thoroughfare. The sweep was ongoing and 13 were arrested on a variety of charges including open warrants and traffic violations, Spurgin said.

Activists, armed with video cameras and aided by others listening to police scanners, roamed the county's neighborhoods, saying they were ready to document any deputies harassing Hispanics.

In Tucson, between 50 and 100 people on both sides of the issue gathered at a street corner. About 200 protesters blocked a busy Los Angeles intersection, with police arrested about a dozen who were linked with plastic pipes and chains.

In New York, about 300 immigrant advocates rallied near the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.

"It's one step closer for us, but I think the fight is still ahead," said Adelfa Lugo, a 56-year-old Mexican-born Brooklyn resident who joined the protest. "If we don't fight this in Arizona, this anti-immigrant feeling will spread across the country."

Since Wednesday's ruling, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has received thousands of phone calls and e-mails. Some were positive, but others were "from people venting and who have expressed their displeasure in a perverted way," said David Gonzales, the U.S. Marshal for Arizona.

Gonzales said his agents are taking some of the threats to Bolton seriously. He wouldn't say how many there were or whether any threats were coming from recognized hate groups. He refused to discuss any extra security measures, which U.S. marshals routinely provide federal judges.

The protests came as Gov. Jan Brewer appealed Bolton's ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Governor wants quick action
The governor, who hired lawyers to defend the law in court, hopes the court will act quickly, saying illegal immigration remains an ongoing crisis.

Arizona has more than 400,000 illegal immigrants, and its border with Mexico is awash with smugglers who funnel narcotics and immigrants throughout the U.S. The law's supporters say the influx of illegal migrants drains vast sums of money from hospitals, education and other services.

The Obama administration has decided to send National Guard troops to the border states to help federal agents with security.

Along the U.S.-Mexico border in punishing temperatures of more than 100 degrees Thursday, two immigrants climbed a fence and fled on foot, while a third threw rocks in the direction of Border Patrol agents. The officers arrested them. New deportees congregated around Nogales.

The Arizona National Guard officials say they hope to have 524 troops in place by the end of September. Troops are expected to arrive at the border in New Mexico and Texas by mid-August, and California officials have estimated an Oct. 1 deadline to have troops fully deployed there.

In Phoenix, demonstrators had promised nonviolent civil disobedience, and they gathered in front of the sheriff's office by the hundreds, blocking traffic and swarming around several cars caught in the protest.

Police moved in to try to allow the drivers to leave, as the crowd shouted, "We will not comply."

Over the next hour, the crowd surged, chanted, yelled and some protesters forced the arrests. They then moved on the to jail.

'They're going to jail'
As Arpaio held a news conference, he got a telephone call, and he told the caller: "OK, we're going to divert our deputies down in front of the jail ... What you do, anybody that resists, you put 'em in our jail. We're going to lock 'em up."

Then he turned to reporters: "As I said, we're not going to allow our jails to be held hostage by these activists, so they're going to jail.

"And if we have to put 200 in there, that's where they're going," he said, adding that the sweeps would continue.

During the sweeps, deputies usually flood an area of a city — in some cases heavily Latino areas — to seek out traffic violators and arrest other alleged lawbreakers. Sixty percent of the nearly 1,000 people arrested in the sweeps since early 2008 have been illegal immigrants.

Critics say deputies racially profile Hispanics. Arpaio says deputies approach people only when they have probable cause.

The Justice Department launched an investigation of his office nearly 17 months ago over allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures. Although the department has declined to detail its investigation, Arpaio believes it centers on his sweeps.

The agency's civil rights attorneys and investigators were in Phoenix Thursday as part of their probe, DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said. She declined to comment on the status of the inquiry or answer any other questions.

In October 2009, when the federal government stripped Arpaio of his power to let 100 deputies make federal immigration arrests, he launched another sweep the next day.

Unable to make arrests under a federal statute, the sheriff instead relied on a nearly 5-year-old state law that prohibits immigrant smuggling.

The elements of the new law that took effect on Thursday will likely aid Arpaio in his immigration efforts.

Strong message to other states?
In her temporary injunction, Bolton delayed the most contentious provisions of the law, including a section that required officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.

Bolton indicated the federal government's case has a good chance at succeeding in its argument that federal immigration law trumps state law.

But she allowed police to enforce the law's bans on blocking vehicle traffic when seeking or offering day-labor services and a revision to the smuggling ban that lets officers stop drivers if they suspect motorists have broken traffic laws.

Bolton also let officers enforce a new prohibition on driving or harboring illegal immigrants in furtherance of their illegal presence.

Opponents of the law said the ruling sends a strong message to other states hoping to replicate the law.

But a Republican lawmaker in Utah said the state will likely take up a similar law anyway when their legislative sessions start up again in 2011.

"The ruling ... should not be a reason for Utah to not move forward," Utah state Rep. Carl Wimmer said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Arizona's border wars

  1. Transcript of: Arizona's border wars

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: We're looking at some -- part of the new fallout tonight in Arizona , including protests, after a judge yesterday blocked the most controversial parts of that state's new immigration law that went into effect today. Now, as expected, Arizona has appealed the decision. Our own George Lewis is with us from the border at Nogales , Arizona . George , good evening.

    GEORGE LEWIS reporting: Good evening, Brian . The question is how much border security is enough? There are 20,000 border patrol agents now; that's twice as many as there were nine years ago. They're a major presence on the streets of Nogales , and soon they'll be joined by the National Guard . It's all in a day 's work for agent Rudy Garcia , helping his fellow border patrol agents round up people trying to cross illegally from Nogales , Mexico , into Nogales , Arizona . The heavy presence of border patrol agents here has kept the streets of Nogales safe, in spite of a raging drug war on the Mexican side of the border.

    Chief JEFFREY KIRKHAM (Nogales, Arizona, Police Department): There have been 130 on the Mexican side. We have not had a homicide here in three years.

    LEWIS: But out in the Arizona desert there is a different statistic. In July, authorities in Tucson recovered the bodies of 57 illegal immigrants who died in the heat. So far this year the death toll is 152. In the last 10 years, human rights groups say 1900 people have died trying to cross the border, most of their bodies winding up in unmarked paupers' graves, like these. Rancher John Ladd says the government needs to do more to secure the border in rural areas.

    Mr. JOHN LADD: We've been inundated and invaded, and I'm tired of it; and nothing's been done.

    LEWIS: But the Obama administration says it is doing plenty.

    Ms. JANET NAPOLITANO (Secretary of Homeland Security): The facts are that there are more border patrol in Arizona than there have ever been. The facts are that illegal immigration is going dramatically downward.

    LEWIS: And soon these border patrol agents will be joined by National Guard troops. This as the Obama administration tires to persuade Congress to move forward on immigration reform . Contrary to earlier reports, the Guard won't begin moving in on Sunday. There will be several weeks of preparations before

    that happens. Brian: All right. George Lewis on the US - Arizona border -- on the Arizona border with Mexico


Photos: Outrage over Arizona law

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  1. Maria Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the labor federation, joins fellow union members, faith and community groups from Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium, Thursday, July 29, to travel to Phoenix to join protests against Arizona's new immigration law. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Volunteer Erin Yoshi makes protest signs for union members as they gather at Dodger Stadium, Thursday, to travel to Phoenix. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Opponents of Arizona's immigration enforcement law SB 1070 sing and march in Phoenix, Thursday, a day after a judge blocked some controversial provisions of the law (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio talks with a staff member in the driveway of the Fourth Avenue Jail during a protest against the immigration law, Thursday. Arpaio vows that his office will still ask the immigration status of those arrested, with state violators being booked into the jail and federal violators turned over to authorities. (Roy Dabner / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Protester Devin Fleenor of Phoenix handcuffs himself to the doors of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office, Thursday, in protest of the immigration law. (Ralph Freso / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Protesters block a street before being arrested during a demonstration against Arizona's immigration law, Thursday, in Phoenix. Riot police responded with arrests. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Protesters join hands as police block the street in Phoenix on Thursday. (Matt York / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A demonstrator is arrested outside Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office in Phoenix on Thursday. (Darren Hauck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Los Angeles Police work to remove 12 protestors who chained themselves together in protest of Arizona's immigration law, at a busy intersection in Los Angeles on Thursday. (Adam Lau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. With the Statue of Liberty behind them, a coalition of immigrant groups and their supporters march in the hundreds across the Brooklyn Bridge on Thursday in New York. (Seth Wenig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A coalition of immigrant groups and their supporters march across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, on Thursday. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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