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A lawyer behind Arizona's illegal-immigration law -- and a cop who wants to stop it

May 13, 2010 |  2:37 pm

Let us introduce you to two compelling characters linked to Arizona’s new tough law on illegal immigration. One, a law professor, helped write it. The other, a Tucson police officer, wants to fight it.

As most folks know — or at least those who’ve read a newspaper or watched television in the last month -- the law allows police to demand immigration papers from suspected illegal immigrants and to detain them if they can’t produce documents.

The profiles of the professor and the officer make for intriguing reading — up-close views of how the law came into existence and how one lawman views its possible bad effects.

The professor is Kris Kobach, at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, who is a little-known but key force in efforts to fight illegal immigration. As our colleague Anna Gorman writes in Thursday’s Times:Kris Kobach

Kobach, 44, is an Ivy League-educated, outspoken advocate for the movement to fight illegal immigration and the go-to guy for cities and states looking to pass laws against it. He is counsel on nine ongoing cases around the country, including in California, targeting sanctuary cities and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and defending the right of cities to prohibit landlords from renting to illegal immigrants and employers from hiring them.

Kobach said he is motivated by a desire to “restore the rule of law” in immigration and to show that states and cities can do their part to help the federal government with enforcement.

“People act like the law can't be followed in immigration,” he said. “I take it as a challenge to show that it can.”

Then there is Martin Escobar, the Tucson police officer. In her profile of Escobar, our colleague Paloma Esquivel shared this anecdote from his youth:

Martin EscobarEscobar had wanted to be a police officer since he was a fourth-grader growing up in Tucson and watching “Adam-12” on TV.

An immigrant from Sonora, Mexico, whose family struggled for many years, he wanted to be respected and admired, he said, as were the men in uniform on the show.

The feeling stuck, even after he was stopped by Border Patrol officers in his neighborhood and asked about his immigration status when he was in middle school.

“I can still remember the street where it happened,” he said. “They stopped me and started asking me what my legal status was. It scared the heck out of me. I was thinking, 'How am I going to prove that I'm here legally?' That's the experience I felt, being afraid, wondering, 'Have I done anything wrong?' "

Follow this link for the profile on Kobach.

Follow this link for the profile on Escobar.

-- Steve Padilla

Top photo: Kris Kobach. Credit: Associated Press. Bottom photo: Martin Escobar. Credit: James Clegg.