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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The New Prop 187?

This item by Ed Kilgore was originally published on April 26, 2010.
It’s increasingly clear that Arizona’s new immigration law, signed by Republican governor Jan Brewer last Friday, is going to be a galvinizing force in national, not just state, politics. This will be true whether or not Congress gets serious on comprehensive immigration reform legislation, this year or next.
While conservatives will predictably object that support for draconian measures to reduce illegal immigration–and I’d say instructing police officers to regularly roust anyone deemed “suspicious” for proof of citizenship is pretty draconian–does not indicate hostility to legal immigrants, it is not seem that way by most Hispanic citizens. And you’d think Republicans might have learned their lesson in 1994, when California’s Prop 187–which like Arizona’s bill, purported to affect no one other than undocumented workers–triggered a major backlash against the GOP among Hispanic voters, especially but not just in the Golden State.
The timing of the Arizona action seems almost providential for Democrats, who can now benefit from a similar backlash without taking the lead on controversial national legislation (though they may choose to promote such legislation anyway). And the more Republicans continue to dutifully obey the Almighty Conservative Base on this subject, the more the prospect of a Republican-controlled Congress will begin to seem dangerous to Hispanic voters. Indeed, armed round-ups of brown-skinned Arizonans, to the cheers of Tea Party activists, could be a more potent GOTV force than anything Democrats could themselves devise.

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