Did Arizona conservative Republicans, cheered on by many in the Republican party’s talk radio political culture, push the wrong hot button? It seems like it has energized voters but perhaps some they would prefer not to be motivated to get to the polls in November:
U.S. Hispanics and Democratic lawmakers furious over Arizona’s harsh crackdown on illegal immigrants expect huge weekend rallies across the United States, piling pressure on President Barack Obama to overhaul immigration laws in this election year.
Protest organizers said on Wednesday outrage over the Arizona law — which seeks to drive illegal immigrants out of the state bordering Mexico — has galvanized Latinos and would translate into a higher turnout for May Day rallies in more than 70 U.S. cities.
“The marches and demonstrations are going to be far more massive than they otherwise would have been,” said Juan Jose Gutierrez, a Los Angeles rally organizer who runs an immigration assistance company.
The backlash began on Friday after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a measure that requires state and local police to determine a person’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” they are undocumented. Critics say it is unconstitutional and opens the door to racial profiling.
Republican backers of the law say it is needed to curb crime in the desert state, which is a key corridor for drug and migrant smugglers from Mexico.
A Rasmussen Reports poll on Wednesday found that almost two-thirds — 64 percent — of voters in the state favored the measure.
The crowds on the streets, from Los Angeles to New York, could be the biggest since 2006, when hundreds of thousands of marchers urged former President George W. Bush to overhaul of federal immigration laws. He tried, but failed in Congress.
“With what’s going on in Arizona we see renewed energy for folks to fight for immigration reform,” said Marissa Graciosa, of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, an organizer of rallies and vigils on Friday and Saturday.
As in most political confrontations in 21st century America, the real “winner” in this may be the side that oversteps the least, the side that seems less outrageous and less extremist. Will the demonstrations be peaceful? Will demonstrators make the same mistake some Tea Party members made and hold up outrageous, over-the-top, adjective-hurling banners that will become images — “high concept,” easy to grasp in a second depictions that, in reality, may not reflect the opinion or attitude of all of the demonstrators? And will there be counter demonstrators shouting out slogans that go over the top and become the story?
Coverage of the Tea Party rallies — angry Americans upset at their government, demanding to “get our country back” were like cotton candy to the media since it made for great copy, quotes, photos and videos.
But so will pro-immigrant demonstrators as well if the charge that the law can complicate the lives of Hispanics who are already American citizens can be made in enduring and convincing soundbites. If they do rallies, they will have a BIG microphone.
Already there are rumblings from GOPers about trying to get the same law in Texas, Ohio and elsewhere. The political dynamics in those states and the realities (not the same kind of state legislature, heavy reliance on immigrants for labor) may mean that similar laws will be a talking point to get support but not a realistic political option.
But if there are big demonstrations then the race will be on — to see which side looks worse when compared to the other. Which side will create the most backlash? Which side has the better communicators to make the case to the many skeptical Americans that a crackdown on illlegal immigration should be or not be just that — a no-holds-barred crackdown? Can they explain why?
One fact to keep in mind: support for this kind of law is not universal among Republicans and opposition to it is not universal among Democrats. And independents — as always — are not a monolithic group.
But is the law already having its intended result — which will spur on other states to do the same? The AP reports that some immigrants are already planning to leave Arizona.
Arizona’s tough new immigration law hasn’t even gone into effect yet, and it’s already working:
Mexico has issued an alert for Mexicans traveling to Arizona. The country is urging its citizens to be careful… that they may be “harassed and questioned without further cause at any time” should they go to Arizona.
That’s not the case at all, but it is ironic. Travel warnings usually work the other way around… with various countries warning their citizens not to go to Mexico due to drug-related violence.
However, no good deed goes unpunished.
The Obama administration might challenge Arizona’s new law in court. They’re concerned the law could take away resources needed to target criminals. How utterly absurd. How about the 460,000 people who are in Arizona illegally now? The reason Arizona did this is the federal government refuses to enforce our immigration laws.
Meanwhile seven members of the city council have signed a proposal for Los Angeles to “refrain from conducting business” in Arizona, and San Francisco’s mayor has imposed an immediate moratorium on city-related travel to that state.
But Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer says she’s not worried about possible boycotts. And she points out that the new law is about the safety of Arizona’s citizens.
And she’s getting support from at least one legislator in Texas who wants the Lone Star State to pass a similar law. President Obama should be embarrassed by this.
Some see the situation the opposite as Cafferty does: they applaud the Obama administration for suggesting the feds may challenge the law; they welcome LA and San Francisco city council actions staying out of Arizona; and they don’t see Jan Brewer as a profile in courage but, rather, a Republican politician in a political pickle who has opted to try to defuse problems on her political right. Sort of like former independent “maverick” and present day unquestionable partisan John McCain is now doing almost daily.
People see this issue — passionately — different ways. And the final majority perception is likely to be shaped as much by who blows it in presenting their case responsibly as by whoever makes the best case.
Although much of the media coverage suggests this law is supported by Arizona law enforcement, it is not universally supported. One Arizona sheriff calls it “racist.”
Barack Obama lashed out at the law bluntly today while on a tour to promote financial reform:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.