A coalition of civil rights groups, including Los Angeles-based Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), filed suit in Phoenix federal court challenging Arizona's controversial immigration law, the organizations announced Monday.

Arizona's law allows and encourages police to question people they stop about their immigration status. Critics have said the law will result in the profiling and harassment of Latinos who are citizens or legal residents.

“Arizona's law is quintessentially un-American: we are not a 'show me your papers' country, nor one that believes in subjecting people to harassment, investigation and arrest simply because others may perceive them as foreign,” said Omar Jadwat, a staff attorney with the ACLU, another plaintiff. “This law violates the Constitution and interferes with federal law, and we are confident that we will prevent it from ever taking effect.”

The suit challenge's Arizona's law on four fronts, arguing that it interferes with federal jurisdiction over immigration, violates the civil rights of people of color by singling them out for enforcement, infringes on the rights of people against illegal searches and seizures, and limits the free speech of suspects who would have their status questioned.

In her argument against the law, Julie Su, Litigation Director of the APALC, invoked the country's imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II: “This extreme law puts Arizona completely out of step with American values of fairness and equality. In a state where U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were interned during World War II, it is deeply troubling that a law that would mandate lower-class treatment of people of color, immigrants and others seen to be outsiders would pass in 2010.”

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