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Rep. Linda Sanchez ignites debate by linking Arizona law to white supremacists

June 4, 2010 |  7:53 am

U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood) ignited a heated debate when she suggested that Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration was fueled by white supremacists.

Sanchez criticized the crackdown in a speech before a Democratic group this week.

"The Arizona laws are not a mistake," she said. "They're not accidental or one person's crazy law. There's a concerted effort behind promoting these kinds of laws on a state-by-state basis by people who have ties to white supremacy groups."

Sanchez gave the speech to a Whittier group, and the Whittier Daily News reported it and posted audio as well.

Her comments ignited much controversy. She was criticized by conservative groups and on talk-radio shows  Thursday. A spokesman for Arizona's governor also took issue with the comments.

Late Thursday, Sanchez issued a statement attempting to "clarify" her comments.

"I never said that everyone who supports the Arizona law is a racist or white supremacist," she said in the statement.

The Arizona law requires police to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop and suspect is in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to lack proper immigration papers. Top U.S. Justice Department officials have drafted a legal challenge asserting that Arizona's law is unconstitutional because it impinges on the federal government's authority to police the nation's borders.

-- Shelby Grad

Photo: U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez. Credit: Associated Press