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Immigration law supporters rally in Arizona

From Casey Wian, CNN
  • Supporters of Arizona immigration law say they're not racist
  • Rally was aimed at boosting the state's economy, supporting law
  • Demonstrators say they hope other states will follow Arizona's lead
  • Law allows police to ask for proof of legal residency when investigating crimes

Phoenix, Arizona (CNN) -- Nearly 1,000 people rallied in scorching temperatures Saturday to speak out against people giving Arizona heat for its controversial new immigration law.

"They're attacking Arizona as a state that's racist and Nazi, and we're here to say that, no, we're not. We're for what America stands for, the melting pot, equality for all," said rally organizer Dan Amato, who traveled from Pennsylvania to Arizona for the event.

Organizers said they wanted to change the perception that supporters of SB 1070, and the law itself, are racist. Nearly half of the speakers at the event were of Hispanic or Mexican ancestry.

The law allows police to ask for proof of legal residency when investigating a suspected crime.

Critics say it will lead to racial profiling and prevent police from doing their jobs by undermining trust in the Latino community. City governments and organizations opposed to the law have targeted Arizona with protests and boycotts.

Participants in Saturday's rally said they wanted to fight back by giving the state an economic boost.

And they said they want other states to follow Arizona's lead by passing legislation to crack down on illegal immigration, claiming the federal government has refused to do the job.

Protesters waved signs that read "Don't pander to non-citizens" and "Lawbreakers don't love America."

More than 100 motorcyclists showed their support by circling the rally on their bikes.

"It is about culture, not race, because the American culture, I feel, is under assault, because they are not embracing our culture," said Ruth Miller, another rally organizer.

Video: Fighting a boycott against Arizona

Carmen Morales, who traveled to the rally from New Jersey, stressed that not all Hispanics are against the new law.

"This is about enforcing the law," she said. "It's about securing our borders."

Other speakers included Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce, who sponsored the law, former Republican presidential candidate and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

"This new law, okay, it was passed. Let's hope it's enforced," Arpaio told CNN after his speech. "Because I'm going to enforce it. I'm going to arrest anybody that violates that state law and put them in my jail, not turn them over to the federal government."