PHOENIX (AP) — As calls spread for an economic boycott of Arizona, the state’s governor enlisted the help of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Saturday to defend a new law cracking down on illegal immigration.
Jan Brewer and Palin blamed President Barack Obama for the state law, saying the measure is Arizona’s attempt to enforce immigration laws because the federal government won’t do it.
“It’s time for Americans across this great country to stand up and say, ‘We’re all Arizonans now,’” Palin said. “And in clear unison we say, ‘Mr. President: Do your job. Secure our border.’”
The former Alaska governor appeared with Brewer at a brief news conference on Saturday. The event launched a website that Brewer said was an effort to educate America about border security and discourage an economic boycott of the state.
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The site, funded by Brewer’s re-election campaign, shows pictures of Brewer and Palin and invites visitors to sign a petition opposing boycotts. It includes a list of politicians and organizations calling for the boycotts and asks visitors to call or e-mail to “let them know that you support Arizona.”
“Our purpose today is to help the rest of the nation understand the crisis which confronts our state,” Brewer said, citing the presence of human and drug smugglers.
The immigration law takes effect July 29 unless blocked by pending court challenges. It requires police enforcing another law to ask a person about his or her immigration status if there’s “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally. Being in the country illegally would become a state crime.
“I think for most American people the reaction to this would be, ‘Why haven’t the police already been doing that?’” Palin said.
Obama and some city, state and foreign governments have condemned the law, which critics say will lead to racial profiling of Hispanics. Brewer on Saturday reiterated her assertion that profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated.
“The president apparently considers it a wonderful opportunity to divide people along racial lines for his personal political convenience,” Brewer said.
Arizona Democratic Party spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said Brewer’s the one who has divided people, which she’s done by signing controversial bills, and “puts her political survival first every single day.”
“Every word she said today was crafted with her Republican primary in mind,” Johnson said. “Arizona is just an afterthought.”
Brewer automatically became governor last year after former Gov. Janet Napolitano was appointed U.S. Homeland Security secretary. She’s found herself rapidly thrust into an international spotlight, the subject of ridicule on the left and praised by anti-illegal immigration activists on the right.
Arizona’s law is considered the nation’s toughest crackdown on illicit border crossers. It was pushed by illegal immigration hard-liners in the state Legislature, but Brewer has become the public face of the law since she signed it April 23.
Her decision to sign it, announced in a nationally televised press conference, has given Brewer traction in this year’s crowded GOP primary for governor.
Some of Brewer’s opponents say she’s not a true conservative and have hit her hard for demanding a temporary increase in the state sales tax. Her campaign has seized on the immigration bill to bolster her conservative credentials.
Brewer and Palin refused to say whether they’d support a guest worker program that would allow unskilled workers to temporarily work legally in the United States.
Palin is in Phoenix for a previously scheduled speech to a hunters group. She has defended the law on national television and spoken out against boycotts.
This week she railed against a suburban Chicago high school for skipping a girls’ basketball tournament in Arizona because of concerns over the new law.
Palin said Wednesday night that people should help the Highland Park team get to Arizona even if the girls have to “go rogue.”