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AZ appeals on immigration

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

PHOENIX -- Arizona asked an appeals court Thursday to lift a judge's order blocking most of the state's immigration law as the city of Phoenix filled with protesters, including about 50 who were arrested for confronting officers in riot gear.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer called U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's Wednesday's decision halting the law ''a bump in the road,'' and the state appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Thursday.

Outside the state Capitol, hundreds of protesters began marching at dawn, gathering in front of the federal courthouse where Bolton issued her ruling on Wednesday. They marched on to the office of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a crackdown on illegal immigration one of his signature issues.

At least 32 demonstrators were arrested after blocking the entrance and beating on the large steel doors leading to the Maricopa County jail in downtown Phoenix. Sheriff's deputies in riot gear opened doors and waded out into the crowd, hauling off those who didn't move.

Dozens of others were arrested throughout the day, trying to cross a police line, entering closed-off areas or sitting in the street and refusing to leave. A photographer for the Arizona Republic and former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002, were among them.

Marchers chanted ''Sheriff Joe, we are here, we will not live in fear,'' and in the crowd was a drummer wearing a papier-mache Sheriff Joe head and dressed in prison garb.

Arpaio vowed to go ahead with a crime sweep targeting illegal immigrants. Phoenix police made most the early arrests, but other protests were planned later in front of a county jail.

''My deputies will arrest them and put them in pink underwear,'' Arpaio said, referring to one of his odd methods of punishment for prisoners. ''Count on it.''

Arizona is the nation's epicenter of illegal immigration, with more than 400,000 undocumented residents. The state's border with Mexico is awash with smugglers and drugs that funnel narcotics and immigrants throughout the U.S., and supporters of the new law say the influx of illegal migrants drains vast sums of money from hospitals, education and other services.

The ruling was anxiously awaited in the U.S. and beyond. About 100 protesters in Mexico City who had gathered at the U.S. Embassy broke into applause when they learned of the ruling via a laptop computer. Mariana Rivera, a 36-year-old from Zacatecas, Mexico, who is living in Phoenix on a work permit, said she heard about the ruling on a Spanish-language news program.

''I was waiting to hear because we're all very worried about everything that's happening,'' said Rivera, who phoned friends and family with the news. ''Even those with papers, we don't go out at night at certain times there's so much fear (of police). You can't just sit back and relax.''