Will the Obama Justice Department law suit against Arizona over that state’s anti-illegal immigration law backfire on Democrats and help Republicans in the 2010 election? An analysis on Politico suggests that may be the result.
“‘This is a tough issue for Democrats,’ said former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, a Democrat who is co-director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver. ‘Politically, I just can’t think of any place in the West where this is going to play well.'”
A Republican strategist agreed. “If you look like you’re siding with illegal immigration, you’re in trouble.”
The Obama administration no doubt hopes that the law suit will help stir up Hispanic voters and cause them to vote for Democrats in 2010 and Obama himself in 2012. Former California Governor Pete Wilson ran a number of anti-illegal immigration ads in 1994, which helped him during that year’s election, but hurt California Republicans in the long run.
On the other hand, much depends on how Republicans handle the illegal immigration issue. If Hispanic voters conclude that they are being targeted, President Obama’s strategy might bear some fruit.
On the other hand, a poll taken in Colorado suggests that support for an anti-illegal immigration law in that state similar to the one in Arizona is supported by Hispanics and whites in roughly equal percentages. The issue that worked in 1994 may not work in 2010 or 2012.
One of the overlooked factors is that the illegal immigration issue has assumed a more dangerous dimension, thanks to the war in Mexico between the government and drug gangs that has made parts of the border lawless. In 1994, the concern was solely about illegal immigrants taking jobs and clogging social services while refusing to assimilate. The issue was easier to demagogue than in the post-9/11 world, in which Mexican drug gangs have brought violence and crime to the southern border of the United States. And, that doesn’t even factor in the fear that terrorists will use the chaos on the border to infiltrate the United States to wreak death and mayhem.
It should also be noted that the Justice Department suit against the state of Arizona does not mention any of the fears of civil rights abuses that opponents of the law have raised. Instead, the suit is being offered solely on the doctrine of federal supremacy, on the notion that border protection is the province of the federal government and not the states. Arizona has responded that its law has been crafted carefully not to contradict federal law but to complement it and that, besides, the federal government has been lax in border security.
The Obama administration is, thus, running a huge risk, pursuing a law suit that is certainly unpopular now, and may not get more popular later. And, on top of all of that, the administration may lose, squandering prestige as well as the threadbare remnants of its popularity.
Arizona suit imperils Western Dem, Maggie Haberman & Carrie Budoff Brown & Scott Wong, Politico, July 7th, 2010