President Obama Says Arizona's "Poorly-Conceived" Immigration Law Could Mean Hispanic-Americans Are Harassed

OTTUMWA, IA -- Asked about his plan for undocumented workers at a town hall this evening in Ottumwa, IA, President Obama referred to “this law that just passed in Arizona which I think is a poorly conceived law.”

The president said, “you can try to make it really tough on people who look like they, quote, unquote look like illegal immigrants. One of the things that the law says is that local officials are allow to ask somebody who they have a suspicion might be an illegal immigrant for their papers -- but you can imagine if you are a Hispanic American in Arizona, your great, great grandparents may have been there before Arizona was even a state. But now suddenly if you don’t have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you’re going to be harassed, that’s something that could potentially happen.”

“That’s not the right way to go,” the president said to the crowd at Indian Hills Community College.

The Arizona law as written states that “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.”

How “reasonable suspicion” will be applied is one of the great debates over the constitutionality of the law. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order requiring training to "provide clear guidance to law enforcement officials regarding what constitutes reasonable suspicion, and shall make clear that an individual's race, color or national origin alone cannot be ground for reasonable suspicion to believe any law has been violated."

The president said he would push for comprehensive immigration reform “so that we don’t have either the kind of bad laws that you see in Arizona, or alternatively we’ve got half a million illegal folks coming into Arizona without any control.”

The president insisted that he has “been pushing” for immigration reform, and “I want it to happen” but “the only way it’s going to happen is if Democrats and Republicans come together. Because this is such a volatile issue.”

He pledged that he would “bring the majority of Democrats to the table in getting this done, but I’ve got to have some help on the other side. …because the only way to rise above the politics, and to solve the problem is to make sure that it is bipartisan.”

- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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