'Tea party' groups plan Arizona rally against illegal immigration

By Sandhya Somashekhar
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Tea party" groups are planning a large rally on Sunday in Arizona, near the Mexican border, to support both the state's hard-line stance on illegal immigration and the political campaign of the local talk show host who is challenging Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Candidate J.D. Hayworth, a former congressman turned conservative radio commentator, is one of dozens of scheduled speakers for the morning rally on a remote ranch about 100 miles south of Tucson.

Others include Sharron Angle, the Republican challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D) in Nevada, and Sue Krentz, the wife of a rancher killed near the rally site. The unsolved shooting death of Rob Krentz, who had spoken out on the problem of illegal immigration, prompted the state legislature to pass a law this year empowering police to question people if there is a "reasonable suspicion" they are illegal immigrants.

A federal judge blocked some of the law's most controversial aspects last month after the Justice Department challenged it in court.

"We're trying to stand behind Governor [Jan] Brewer while the federal government is proceeding with its lawsuit challenging Arizona's right to protect its own borders," said Tim Selaty Sr., vice president of a tea party group called United We Stand for Americans.

Selaty said the group timed the rally to have maximum impact on Arizona's Aug. 24 Republican primary. Hayworth, a hard-liner on illegal immigration, is challenging McCain, who until recently had been a strong voice for creating a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

Hayworth, who lags significantly behind McCain in the polls, has hammered the Arizona senator on his past support of what Hayworth calls amnesty. McCain has recently toughened his stance. Last week, he joined the chorus of Republican lawmakers who said they may be open to changing the country's longstanding policy of granting automatic citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. They say the policy, established in the Constitution's 14th Amendment, is a magnet for illegal immigrants seeking the benefits of a U.S. passport for their children.

Although tea party groups have long argued for harsher penalties against illegal border crossers, this will be the first large-scale rally on the U.S.-Mexican border, Selaty said. Some participants say it could be as large as the one held in March in Reid's home town of Searchlight, Nev., when thousands joined former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to oppose Reid and protest the health-care overhaul.

Organizers hope the rally will also draw attention to porous sections of the border, which they say have become magnets for smugglers and drug traffickers.

Though some of the border has the 13-foot-high barriers favored by those who support stronger protections, some stretches have less-imposing vehicle walls and some areas have no fence.

The event will take place on the private property of a local rancher, so counterprotesters will not be permitted. Security will be provided by the U.S. Border Patrol, two sheriff's offices and the rancher's personal security force, Selaty said. Attendees will not be barred from bringing firearms, but organizers are asking that they leave their long arms and rifles in their cars.

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