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Arizona immigration law puts police in 'impossible situation'

A new Arizona anti-illegal immigration law asks police to perform tasks that are often contradictory, critics say – enforcing immigration law and criminal law.

Protesters clash with police during an immigration demonstration outside the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on Friday. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the country's toughest immigration law Friday.

Laura Segall/Reuters

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Local law enforcement agencies have moved front and center in the national debate over immigration reform with the signing of Arizona’s SB1070 immigration law.

The law – signed Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) – requires law enforcement to check the residency status of those thought to be in the country illegally. Police unions were divided on the issue and some leading law enforcement agencies petitioned Governor Brewer not to sign the bill – fearing racial profiling and loss of the public's trust.

Police face contradicting missions, critics argue. “This obviously puts police in an impossible situation because it requires them to pursue two goals simultaneously: to enforce the immigration laws; and to enforce the criminal laws, keep the peace, provide assistance, and all the other ordinary tasks of police officers,” says Joel Jacobsen, assistant attorney general, criminal appeals division for New Mexico. “Which goal should they pursue?"

IN PICTURES: The US/Mexico border

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