LOS ANGELES – Thousands of people have marched in Phoenix, Arizona to express their opposition to a controversial immigration law signed by the state governor.
Television images showed the protesters converging on the State Capitol, where they held a rally to denounce the legislation.
The law, signed by Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer on Friday, allows police to question and detain anyone in the southwestern border state they believe may be an illegal immigrant, even if they are not suspected of committing another crime.
It would also require anyone in the state suspected of being an illegal immigrant to show a document proving their legal status, like a "green card" permanent residency document or a passport.
Opponents of the law say that if police demand papers from someone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant, and they turn out to be a US citizen, their constitutional rights will have been infringed.
US Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez urged the demonstrators to keep up pressure on politicians, reminding them that the controversial law would not take effect for 90 days.
"In these 90 days, we will demonstrate our solidarity," he said, addressing the protesters in Spanish. "That's why we are here."
Demonstrator Jose Acosta told CNN television he was concerned about the new law.
"What is reasonable suspicion? Are we going to get pulled over just because of a broken taillight, or because of the color of our skin?" he asked.
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton said it was people's moral obligation to stand against this profiling in Arizona.
"Make no mistake about it. This is not a fight between minorities," he said. "This is a fight for justice and fairness for everyone."
Sharpton said protesters would bring people from around the country to Arizona who will walk down the streets with no identity cards and submit themselves to arrest.
"What is the difference between us and any Mexican, or any Asian, or anyone else?" he asked. "We will bring freedom walkers to Arizona just like freedom riders went to the deep South 50 years ago."
President Barack Obama, in a rare presidential intervention on a state matter, earlier described the law as "misguided."
At a naturalization ceremony for immigrant US service members at the White House last week, Obama said the measure threatens to "undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."
© AFP 2013