Arizona immigration ruling may backfire

August 3, 2010


Like most civil rights supporters, I celebrated last week’s news that a judge suspended the harshest portions of Arizona’s xenophobic immigration law. But the more I think about it, the more I fear it will backfire in the near future.

The ruling suspends the Arizona law’s provision that ask local police officers enforcing other laws to demand immigration papers from people they suspect are in the country illegally. That could have led to racially motivated interrogations of both legal and undocumented Hispanics.

But contrary to conventional wisdom that the judge’s decision was a victory for pro-immigrant forces, it could have a negative political impact in November’s legislative elections and may end up hurting immigrants in the long run.

First, the ruling was the first step of what’s likely to be a long legal battle. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a vocal supporter of the state law, has already said she has appealed the ruling and that she may take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

The legal battle over the Arizona law is far from over.

Backers of the state law and similar bills that have been introduced in 17 states say that in light of federal government inaction, states have to take measures on their own to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants. The Obama administration and pro-immigrant groups say the law violates fundamental rights, and call for a more comprehensive immigration reform.

Second, the ruling may energize Republicans in the November election. It will be used by anti-immigrant groups as a rallying cry to get voters to elect a new Congress that is more sympathetic to Arizona-style measures.

“I fear that the unintended consequence of this ruling is that it will redouble restrictionists’ efforts at the national level, which will be to the detriment of immigrants,” Temple University law professor Peter Spiro said. “They are hitting a brick wall at the state level, so they will step up their efforts in Washington.”

Third, and most important, the news that the judge’s ruling knocked out the most pervasive traits of the Arizona law may drive many Hispanics to stay at home in November.

Without Hispanic support, many Democratic opponents of Arizona-inspired laws may lose their elections, and there will be a greater chance that the next Congress will be more amenable to adopt draconian anti-immigration measures.

Obama won the 2008 election with a massive 67 percent of the Hispanic vote nationwide, but a new Associated Press-Univision poll shows that only 57 percent of Hispanics approve of the president’s job performance today.

“Definitely, the Democratic Party’s greatest fear is that Hispanics will not get out to vote in November,” says Sergio Bendixen, a Democratic pollster who tracks the Hispanic vote nationwide. “If Hispanics don’t turn out to vote, the party could suffer much more serious losses than anticipated.”

In addition, many Hispanics may not turn out to vote in November because they are disappointed that Obama has not met his campaign promise of presenting a comprehensive immigration bill early in his presidency, Bendixen said.

While few pollsters predict a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, there is a chance that Democrats may lose the Senate, they say.

My opinion: I know this sounds weird, but if the judge had not blocked the worst provisions of the Arizona law, the state legislation may have died of natural causes once local police forces realized that they don’t have the resources to act as federal immigration officers, nor the stomach to be seen worldwide as symbols of state-sponsored xenophobia.

Letting the worst parts of the Arizona law stand would have given Democrats a major campaign issue to get out the Hispanic vote in November, keep their majority in both houses of Congress, and negotiate a comprehensive immigration bill from a position of strength.

Now, it’s going to be more difficult to get a high turnout from Hispanics, and we run the risk of ending up with a new Congress that is more sympathetic to Arizona-inspired anti-immigration laws. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s a distinct possibility.


Postscript: Fortunately, the State Department has reversed its decision to deny a visa to Colombian journalist Hollman Morris, which we strongly condemned in a previous column. The visa rejection was an example of ideological exclusion practices that are not worthy of a free society.

— Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com


independant1 7 years, 8 months ago

A comprehensive immigration bill = ? A bill that covers legal and illegal immigration? A bill that creates amnesty for those already in USA (a path to legal) but has enforcement for any new illegals? What is the dem stand?

ivalueamerica 7 years, 8 months ago

no different than your love for your racist white supremecists friends at FAIR.

Your failure as an American and as a Human being is that you ONLY attack non white racists.

I attack them all, regardless of color because they are all bad.

You embrace the white racists because.....

jaywalker 7 years, 8 months ago

What a putrid piece. Oppenheimer is for civil rights and pro-immigrant, but asserts that it would have been better to 'use' said immigrants as fodder for political victory (like that hasn't been the case before). And enough with the "pro-immigrant" vs. "anti-immigrant" shinola; the longer this argument goes on the more the line gets erased as to what's actually the issue. With the exception of a couple fringe groups like FAIR, the citizens that are jumping up and down for something to be done on our southern borders are referring to "illegal trespassers". Period. There will always be the morons who want all immigration to be stopped, blind to the fact that their own blood is far from 'pure' Americanian', blind to the fact that immigration is what makes us THE melting pot and lends us greatness that other countires can't fathom. But painting all peoples up in arms over this decades long travesty as 'anti-any ol' foreigne'r is intellectually void and merely delves down to the lowest levels set by aforementioned morons. And Oppenheimer's been there before.
I want every single person who wants to be an American to become so, but they have to do it right. And that's for their sakes as well as the rest of the country. They need to be included in the fabric of our society, not used as political pawns by both sides, paid an honest wage, and not bankrupting hospitals or overcrowding schoolsand prison systems while sending large portions of money earned back across the borders instead of circulating it back into our economy. There are so many things wrong with the current situation it's mind-boggling that our elected numbskulls can't seem to find a solution. And ignorant agendas like the one Oppenheimer espouses are part and parcel to the entire snafu. Wake Up!

skinny 7 years, 8 months ago

All they need to do is start enforcing the current laws on the books now and start deporting everyone that is in this country illegally, and do it now!

Flap Doodle 7 years, 8 months ago

Regain control of our borders. Deport all illegal aliens. Protect American citizens.

kthxbi 7 years, 8 months ago

It's always been us. For the people, by the people. We get the goverment we deserve.

birdsandflowers 7 years, 8 months ago

When stopped for a violation, is it not a common practice for a police officer in any part of America to run a driver's license check for outstanding warrants, probation violations, etc. regardless of gender, age, or race? My point is, the process is not to "target" me, it is there as a tool to catch up with any illegal activity. So, why is this Arizona law any different? If someone is stopped for a violation, why is it not acceptable to run a check to ensure they are not an illegal immigrant? I don't understand why a Latino here legally would be offended? Do they support illegal immigrants? I could see this law being an issue if police were allowed to stop any Latino to check for papers; yes, that would be racial profiling. But, come on, if they are stopped for a violation, why not use that as a tool to enforce the borders? It is becoming more clear to me that liberal America has accomplished a true reversal of protecting the rights of criminals instead of protecting the rights of the innocent.

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

DIST, did you just accuse everyone on the left of being a racist? How swell. Nice rational, too, given that there really were portions of the law struck down for being unconstitutional, since they would lead to racial profiling. Sorry, but "the left" is on the side of the Constitution on this one, while "the right" is on the side of profiling and unconstitutional laws.

While the problem of illegal immigration is a serious one, the fact that Republicans are just NOW, in this election cycle, making it their cause of the moment (rather than when they were in office recently and actually were in position to do something about it) indicates that the outrage as it is being played out in the media is manufactured. It is just another political tool intended to stir up the anger of possible voters who are upset about unemployment and "them illegals" who are taking American jobs.

It is just like Republicans being really, really upset about government spending ... NOW. When they were in charge? Not so much.

Republicans were really upset about gay marriage around previous elections, and now it is the double-barrel umbrage over illegal immigration and government spending. Who cares that they did nothing about these same exact issues that were problems when they were in power. Put them back in power, however, and they will take care of it this time! Honest!

Um, sure they will.

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

Sure DIST, the Arizona law has nothing to do with Hispanics. It was really meant to stop White Canadians who are coming through the Mexican border. Thanks for clearing that one up. However, that doesn't clarify why it was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge because it would lead to racial profiling.

Also, when you wrote "Why does the left continue ..." you aren't just talking about this columnist, you are talking about "the left."

Further, the Obama administration doesn't want to put up a roadblock to stopping illegals, they wanted to block a law that has since been ruled unconstitutional. He was correct.

You also appear to dismiss the 1,200 troops sent to the border by Obama for added security. I find this surprising. Brewer asked for 250 troops. http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2010/04/22/brewer-pledges-border-assistance-demands-federal-help/

Of course, that was back in April, before it become the hot issue that just might get Brewer re-elected. Now she says that 1200 troops aren't enough.

Obama has also requested Congress spend $500 million more on border security. Why doesn't that ever get mentioned, or is it just more spendng that we can't afford? Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

I see. When you write "the left," it doesn't actually mean everyone on "the left." Got it. You should know, however, that it reads like that.

You claim here that many on the left are against illegal entry into our country. I would just like to know, if many are against illegaly entry, who is it on the left in favor of illegal entry into the country? Who exactly is for illegal entry, and what seats of power do they hold?

Sorry for this gross example, but your statement reads something like this: Not everyone on the right is in favor of shooting illegals as they cross the border.

I believe we are all, as Americans, left and right, against illegal entry and would want to see everyone enter the country legally. We just have differences of opinion on how the situation should be handled at this point, especially with 12 million (?) people already here.

Regarding the 1,200 troops, I'll admit it was poor wording on my part that caused the misunderstanding. Sorry about that. When I say you dismiss Obama's sending the troops, rather, what I meant was exactly what you say here, that you failed to mention it. That was the point I was trying to make. You dismiss it by not mentioning it. You claim he is putting up roadblocks, but then appear to ignore the positives. Why must he be painted as the bad guy in all of this if he is doing some things people want done?

Further, he hasn't put up a roadblock to preventing illegal immigration. He is trying to make sure it is handled according to the Constitution, and thus far, a federal judge has said that 1070 does not. I will be greatly surprised if this goes to the Supreme Court because the ruling thus far seems pretty clear.

Sending 1,200 troops isn't setting up a roadblock, it is doing part of what needs to be done. There isn't one side who is really, really against illegal entry into the country, and one side that is really, really for it. There are multiple groups that think differently on how to handle the situation.

Finally, I do believe that Republicans are using this to score political points with voters right now, since they failed to take action against these same things when they were in control. It doesn't surprise me. This is what politicians do.

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

Also? What kind of bizarre question is that? Who else have I said was a racist here, agnostick?

You are just pulling stuff out of the air with that one. What I said was that the law in Arizona (parts of the law, actually) was stopped by a federal judge (a judge highly recommended by Jon Kyl, by the way) because it was unconstitutional and could lead to racial profiling.

Also, I reminded people that Jan Brewer asked Obama for 250 troops on the border, and he sent 1,200.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 8 months ago

There are 11 million illegal immigrants in this country. ELEVEN MILLION. If by some miracle every one of them was deported in the next month do you have any idea what it would do to our economy? It's already in the toilet. This would flush it. Have fun!

jabean 7 years, 8 months ago

Your comment speaks to you ignorance on the issue.

greenworld 7 years, 8 months ago

Mexican Americans keep protesting because this isnt against your race this is to stand up for all races and protect our country from becoming ate up by immigrants who will work for nothing and swallow up every last job that is out there. If you are one of the protesters than basically you are saying you dont care about your kids future of any education or getting a job later in life. So think about what you are protesting before you go and try and turn this into a racial thing. WHoever keeps saying our country was founded by immigrants is a stupid comment and has weak evidence supporting it. Our country was founded by all races that were either born here or moved here and established themselves the correct way. Our country has laws in place that need and have to be followed or else our country will go to he!! If you dont follow proper method of becoming an American and doing it the correct way you are basically a runner and jumper which wont be permitted.

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

How is protesting against a law that has been deemed thus far by a federal judge to be unconstitutional the same as saying you don't care about your kids' future? Must one be against the Constitution in order to care about our children's future?

Yes, our nation has laws that need to be followed. We also have a Constitution, and laws need to follow it.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 8 months ago

"Our country was founded by all races that were either born here or moved here...." Really? So the Mayflower was just a floating United Nations assembly right?Don't know many Native Americans do you.I don't think they would agree that the white man "established themselves the correct way."

greenworld 7 years, 8 months ago

I believe when it said we the people it was referring to we the people of the US not we the people of Mexico , please come over to the US as an uninvited guest and do as you please. Just dont try and debate this cuz you are going to believe what you want and I will as well. If you want to do yourself a favor lookup the words American citizen or citizen in the dictionary and see what it says. ANd then do the same and go lookup the word Immigrant and read what it says. There should be a difference that deciphers between the two. That will tell you what you need to know.

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

GW, believe what you choose, of course, but it does none of us any good to make ridiculous statements like your claim that those who aren't on your side of the 1070 law are somehow against the future of their own children. That is just asinine, especially given that it has been ruled by a federal judge to be an unconstitutional law. I actually do know the difference between citizen and immigrant, just as I know many immigrants in turn become citizens (did you know that?). I also know that states can't make laws that go against the United States Constitution and expect them to hold up. To support unconstitutional laws is to give up on the Constitution, the very thing that guided this nation to greatness.

I'm just curious, why does a bit of debating scare you so? Are you that insecure in your beliefs?

John Hamm 7 years, 8 months ago

I don't know why I wasted the time I did reading this. The writer seems to be unable to discern a difference between "immigrant" and "illegal immigrant." And that is the crux of the problem. Immigrants are welcome, illegal immigrants aren't and should be deported to their country of origin. The Federal Government should be doing it but isn't therefore it's up to the States to act.

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

As long as the States remain within the limits of the Constitution. Otherwise, it is the feds job.

jaywalker 7 years, 8 months ago

A 'job' they have no intention of getting done. States rights, anyone?

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 8 months ago

So what would you do about this?There are 11 million illegals in this country. Any idea how much it would cost to get that job done? Where do you think we should start?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 8 months ago

After we dragged a couple of million kicking and screaming to the border and dumped 'em over, some of the others might decide to leave under their own power.

beatrice 7 years, 8 months ago

Well Jesse, to be fair, it was written by foxnews, so that counts as an alternative universe of sorts.

jabean 7 years, 8 months ago

What pathetic drivel.

Hey Andres- You've forgotten one very important word in this article: ILLEGAL. Big difference between legal immigrants & illegal immigrants. Catch a clue!

Flap Doodle 7 years, 8 months ago

In other illegal alien news:

"As she made arrangements Thursday to bury her 14-year-old daughter, Keisha Lambert learned that the suspected gunman in the teenager's killing had been previously deported twice from the U.S.

"It's not right that he came back a third time," Lambert said.

Melvin Alvarado, 22, was convicted of two separate intoxicated driving offenses in Harris County in 2005 and 2007, criminal records show. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail in connection with the last conviction in November 2007.

Gregory Palmore, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman in Houston, said immigration officials removed Alvarado from the country in April 2008 and again in May 2009. Palmore said it was unclear from his records whether Alvarado was picked up directly from Harris County Jail after the last intoxicated driving conviction.

The second suspect in the fatal shooting of Shatavia Anderson on Saturday, Jonathan Lopez-Torres, 18, was a lawful permanent resident from Honduras, Palmore said. According to Harris County records, Lopez-Torres was arrested and accused of auto theft in February 2009. That charge was later dismissed.

Alvarado and Lopez-Torres were charged on Wednesday with capital murder in the slaying of Anderson, who was known as "Tae" to her friends and family. They were being held without bail in Harris County Jail.

The two suspects allegedly saw Anderson as merely a "target of opportunity" for an armed robbery, Houston police homicide detectives said.

Anderson was shot in the back while she was walking home to her northside apartment in the 1100 block of Langwick. She was last seen alive around 12:30 a.m.

Alvarado fled after grabbing some of the girl's belongings, including jewelry, a cell phone and her purse, police said. The purse was found in the woods near the teen's body around 9 a.m. A witness helped police craft a composite sketch and later identified Alvarado as the killer, authorities said.

Lambert said a service will be held for her daughter Saturday morning at Canaan Baptist Church, 5117 Lockwood Drive. She will be buried at Paradise Cemetery at West Montgomery Road and West Gulf Bank."


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