Arizona law controversy raises Grijalva's profile along with immigration issue

Before the Arizona immigration law became front-page news, Rep. Raul Grijalva was calling for an economic boycott of his home state in the event that the controversial legislation passed there.

It did, was promptly signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, and the Arizona Democrat -- and his strident calls for rapid immigration reform, despite the priorities of some in his party -- has since been thrust into the media spotlight, springboarded by his opposition to the Arizona law.

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Grijalva, rallying protesters back in Phoenix the weekend after the bill was signed, called on President Barack Obama to not cooperate with the law.

"We're going to overturn this unjust and racist law, and then we're going to overturn the power structure that created this unjust, racist law," Grijalva said of the law that gives police power to request ID from suspected illegal immigrants.

In a Wednesday press conference outside the Capitol, Grijalva, backed by members of the Congressional Hispanic and Black Caucuses, demanded "more leadership" from Obama.

"We are all collectively asking President Obama, the Department of Justice and his attorney general to join in the fight on the legal side, to seek an injunction of the supremacy clause, that this is a federal law that needs to be done federally and not by states," Grijalva said.

The chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has been riding the cusp of the wave of anger brought about by the law that now adds pressure on the Democrats to push immigration reform legislation through this year, even though a climate bill waits in the wings after financial regulatory reform.

And even though Grijalva has a specific bone to pick with the Arizona law, it's the media firestorm over the controversy that has helped push illegal immigration as a whole back to front-burner status seemingly overnight.

"If we let this go unattended, what happened in Arizona will be replicated in other parts of the country, and the fight we are going through in Arizona will become everybody else's fight," Grijalva said. "This is not just Arizona's fight; it's a national fight."


Perhaps in an acknowledgment that his immigration push now has its most serious shot in years of being resurrected as a legislative priority, Grijalva did not make headlines on Saturday as thousands of May Day protesters across the country sounded off against the Arizona law and called for quick, sweeping immigration reform.

His Hispanic Caucus colleague Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), though, got led away from the White House in handcuffs after saying he and other protesters would sit at the fence until comprehensive immigration reform was signed.

Gutierrez was scheduled to appear on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday before purposely getting arrested Saturday.

"My arrest was part of a response to what I consider the immorality of our broken immigration system," Gutierrez said on CBS Sunday. "I was arrested yesterday because it was time I thought to escalate and to elevate the level of awareness and consciousness for all."

Grijalva, though, rounded out his week by writing his first piece for The Huffington Post on Thursday, in which he touted his co-sponsored H.R. 4321, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, as "what real reform looks like: focusing on the realities of our immigration system, not the myths and falsehoods that have led us to where we are now in Arizona."

"This law should be overturned without delay, and Congress should take up comprehensive reform the same day," Grijalva wrote.