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Villaraigosa: Arizona's anti-illegal immigrant backlash stems from lack of 'political courage' in Washington

July 29, 2010 |  1:30 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the anti-illegal immigrant backlash in Arizona is due to a lack of “political courage” in Washington to pass legislative reforms.

“We’re here because the federal government has failed to act,” he told CNN Thursday afternoon after an appearance by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “The fact of the matter is that they just failed in that responsibility.”

Villaraigosa called Arpaio a “caricature,” but said the sheriff is, unfortunately, the face of SB 1070 – Arizona’s controversial immigration law -- and efforts to ban ethnic studies in public schools and other directives aimed at Latinos.

“It’s not just SB 1070, it’s been a whole slew of proposals that frankly, go against the grain of our Constitution,” he said.

Villaraigosa said the role of leadership in law enforcement is to do so in a way that brings people together and “emphasizes our commonalities.” Arpaio seems to be using his power for political purposes, he said.

In Washington, leadership should acknowledge the need for comprehensive immigration reform, he said.

“We need to makes sure that the federal government is doing their job, so states like Arizona won’t build a vacuum,” he said.

On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked the most controversial provisions of SB 1070 just hours before the law was to take effect. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix issued a temporary injunction against parts of the law that would require police to determine the status of people they lawfully stop and suspect are in the country illegally.

Bolton also forbade Arizona from making it a state crime to not carry immigration documents, and struck down two other provisions as an unconstitutional attempt by Arizona to undermine the federal government’s efforts to enforce immigration policy.   

-- Nicole Santa Cruz