President Barack Obama has strongly denounced a "misguided" Arizona immigration bill that would give police unprecedented authority to question and arrest people because of their immigration status. Obama said Friday morning that the legislation would "open the door to irresponsibility by others" and "threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe," Politico reports. Obama added that he has instructed his administration to closely monitor the civil rights implications of the bill.
The president also suggested that the Arizona bill—which the state's GOP governor, Jan Brewer, has until Saturday to sign or veto—pointed to the urgent need for federal-level immigration reform. "If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country," Obama said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have also indicated that a comprehensive immigration overhaul could happen this year, even ahead of a climate and energy bill.
In fact, Obama reached out this week to Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and other Senate Republicans to ask them to consider supporting immigration reform. And in a conference call Thursday night, Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who released his own reform bill last year, reiterated the need for GOP backing in the House as well. Estimating that an immigration bill would gather about 200 or 205 Democratic votes, Gutierrez said, “We’re going to need about 20 Republicans. This is not rhetoric from the Democratic Party trying to slip and slide away, it’s just true—we have to go and find them.”