Welcome To AZ: Nat’l Pols Position Themselves On Controversial Immigration Law

April 29, 2010 4:59 a.m.

With Congress seemingly out of the immigration reform business for the moment, all debate on the topic has shifted to Arizona’s controversial new law. With no national bill to talk about, politicians are positioning themselves on the Arizona legislation in order to grab hold of a growing wave of discussion about immigration the law has sparked.

Thanks in part to the bill’s tough language — which critics say puts anyone who even appears to be Latino under suspicion in the eyes of the law — the lines being drawn nationally on the bill do not always reflect the traditional Republican vs. Democratic order of things, though national Democrats do seem to be leading the way on calling for repeal or blockage of the law in the court.

The debate on the Republican side so far seems to come down to this: Where you are, who you are and what you’re running for.The ‘What A Great Idea!’ Crowd

Some national Republicans have grabbed onto the Arizona law with both hands, hoping to ride the wave of anti-immigrant fervor straight to victory in primary elections.

• John McCain: Once a proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, McCain — locked in a primary with AZ immigration law superfan J.D. Hayworth — is fully on board with his state’s new plan to get illegal immigrants off the streets.

• Sarah Palin “This is a reasonable law,” Palin told Sean Hannity last night. She then said that claims by Democrats that the law could lead to racial profiling were examples of a party in trouble playing to the base. Check out the video here.

• Republicans near you: ThinkProgress reports candidates and advocacy groups in at least more than a few states — UT, CO, GA, MD, OH, NC, TX, MO, OK and NE so far — are calling for Arizona-style laws of their own.

The ‘Yes-With-A-But’ Crowd

Republicans are not eager to get on the wrong side of anti-immigrant groups, and some of them are trying to have it both ways on the Arizona law, supporting it in concept while voicing concerns over some of its more distasteful elements.

• Tom Tancredo: The ardent anti-immigration advocate says he’d like to see a bill like Arizona’s passed in his home state Colorado, but he expressed concerns that parts of the bill might go too far.

• Michael Steele: On the one hand, Steele says, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) “acted in the best interests of the people of Arizona” when she signed the law. On the other hand, he worries that the law could alienate the all-important hispanic vote.

“We need as a party to be mindful that our prior actions in this area and certainly our rhetoric in this area has not been the most welcoming and the most supportive of helping those who want to assimilate into the way of life of America,” Steele told CNN last night.

The ‘You Tell Me’ Crowd

• Mitt Romney: The current “front runner” among the crop of potential 2012 Republican presidential nominees is keeping his feelings on the law mysterious. “It is my hope that the law will be implemented with care and caution not to single out individuals based upon their ethnicity,” he told Politico.

Romney told the website he understands where the bill is coming from, but declined to say whether he supports it or not. “Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law is the direct result of Washington’s failure to secure the border and to protect the lives and liberties of our citizens,” he said.

The ‘Let’s Not And Say We Did’ Crowd

Some Republicans are slamming the Arizona law as the absolute wrong way to fix the nation’s immigration problems.

• Jeb Bush The former governor of Florida is not impressed with the Arizona law. “I don’t think this is the proper approach,” he told Politico.

• Tom Ridge: George W. Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security is also not pulling punches when it comes to the law. He told the AP he’s against the law because “it allows police to question people without probable cause.”

•Karl Rove: At a book signing in Florida yesterday, Rove offered this take on the bill, according to the Orlando Sentinel: “I wished they hadn’t passed it, in a way.”

Rove said the bill will have “constitutional problems,” but stopped short of saying it was a bad idea. “At the end of the day … I think there are better tools,” he said, according to the Sentinel. “But I understand where it’s coming from.”

• Marco Rubio: The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio is torn between two worlds — the fears of racial profiling among his fellow Latinos and the staunch support for the bill among his tea party base. He’s tried to thread the needle, but emphasized the potential downsides more than Arizona’s right to pass the law.

“States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens,” he said in a statement after the law was signed. “I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with ‘reasonable suspicion,’ are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens.”

• Bob McDonnell The Republican governor of Virginia, best known recently for his mea culpa over slavery, sounds almost like a Democrat when it comes to the Arizona law. As Dave Weigel reports, McDonnell slammed the more controversial parts of the law in a radio interview this morning.

“I’m concerned about the whole idea of carrying papers and always having to be able to prove your citizenship,” he said. “That brings up some shades of some other regimes that weren’t necessarily helpful to democracy.”

The ‘Hell No!’ Crowd

For some, there are no if, ands or buts — they decry the Arizona law are calling on the federal government to defeat it in the courts.

• Congressional Democrats: Today, a large group of Democrats held a press conference at the Capitol where they slammed the Arizona law and called on the White House to challenge it in the courts. A sample comment from the podium:

“This law panders to the worst elements of our national dialogue,” Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) said. Some representatives at the press conference called on the Justice Department to challenge the constitutionality of the law in federal court.

• President Obama: Speaking about the Arizona law the other day, Obama rejected it in no uncertain terms. He said the law “threaten[s] to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.”

Like most politicians this week, Obama said that the bill was a sign that lawmakers in Washington need to take on comprehensive reform.

• Others: Other Democrats are jumping on the bill to an even stronger degree. One example of the frustration at the Arizona law comes from San Francisco, where mayor Gavin Newsom has banned all city workers from traveling to Arizona on the taxpayer’s dime for the foreseeable future.

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