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Weakened Arizona immigrant rules still draw protests

* Ruling seen slowing states mulling copycat laws

* Sheriff to push ahead with crime and immigration sweep

* Illegal immigrant day laborers tout for work

PHOENIX, July 29 (Reuters) - Arizona brought in a weakened anti-immigration law on Thursday after a U.S. court blocked its most intrusive provisions and analysts said the court ruling would stall similar tough legislation action in other states.

Hispanic and labor activists, delighted by Wednesday’s last minute ruling, pushed ahead with rallies in central Phoenix and scores of illegal day laborers touted for work openly in the city in defiance of surviving clauses in the new law.

Tensions over the law inflamed a national debate over the issue, which has festered for decades and promises to play into the elections in November, when President Barack Obama’s Democrats are fighting to retain control of Congress.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was expected to file an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco later in the day to reinstate the provisions, heralding a long legal fight that is expected to reach the Supreme Court.

Analysts said the ruling would “at least hit the pause button” for as many as 20 other states around the country where Republican lawmakers are considering copycat legislation inspired by the Arizona law.

“If the Supreme Court upholds the injunction that will most likely put a real damper on any potential legislation,” said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Texas.

The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the law three months ago to try to drive nearly half a million illegal immigrants out of Arizona, and stem the flow of human and drug smugglers over the border from Mexico

In a victory for Obama, who is trying to reassert federal authority over the issue, a U.S. District Court judge on Wednesday granted an injunction against the most controversial elements, which had drawn wide popular support in this state bordering Mexico.

The blocked provisions included one that required a police officer to determine the immigration status of a person detained or arrested if the officer believed they were not in the country legally.


Immigrants would also have been required to carry their documents at all times and undocumented workers would have been forbidden to solicit work in public.

Measures not subject to the stay, and which went into effect on Thursday, included offenses making it illegal for drivers to pick up day laborers from the street and to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant.

The law is popular with a majority of Americans and 65 percent of Arizona voters, although opponents charge it is unconstitutional and would lead to discrimination against Latinos, and Latino-looking Americans.

Late on Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $701 million package aimed at bolstering security along the U.S. border with Mexico, funds Obama sought earlier in the year as the fight in Arizona over illegal immigration grew.

The money, which includes $208 million for 1,200 additional border patrol agents deployed to the southwest border, must still be approved by the Senate and it was not clear if that would happen before the chamber’s summer recess that begins late next week.

About 100 activists marched in central Phoenix early on Thursday and planned to push ahead with rallies outside a sheriff’s office and a jail in the city later in the day to oppose the remaining measures in the law, known as SB 1070.


“We welcome the fact that the judge blocked some of the provisions in SB 1070 but ... we are continuing action to overturn the rest of the law, ” said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

“Today is going to be worse that yesterday because there will be more laws on the books, more tools for cops,” he said.

Scores of day laborers set out to seek work at informal day labor sites in Phoenix, despite the new provision making it illegal for drivers to stop for them.

“We’re not criminals, we’re not hurting anyone ... We wish people would know that,” said Franco Escamilla, an undocumented laborer from Mexico said as he waited outside a Home Depot store in Phoenix.

Thomas Henman of the U.S. Marshals Service said three people were arrested after entering a cordoned off area of the federal court house. Among them was Alfredo Gutierrez, a prominent former state legislator and chairman of the boycott committee of group Somos America.

Wednesday’s court ruling left 15,000 state and local police across Arizona weighing late changes to the law they had trained to implement.

A sheriff known for his tough approach to illegal immigrants in the Phoenix area, said he would push ahead with a crime and immigration sweep as planned on Thursday.

“It’s business as usual for this sheriff’s office,” Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. (Writing by Tim Gaynor; Additional reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; Editing by David Storey)