Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Arizona’s hiatus on illegal immigration offers respite for Hispanic voters

In Arizona there is ongoing fear by undocumented immigrants to speak up or participate in the general population because of the racist attitudes of many of the state’s residents.  Not to mention bigots like former state Sen. Russell Pearce, author of anti-immigration bill SB-1070, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  This even spills over into the legal immigrant community that isn’t quite sure they are actually safe in a state known for its intolerances.

But the New York Times says that illegal immigration is on the “back burner” in Arizona and that is a good sign to help turn out the Latino vote in the November election.  Russell Pearce was thrown out of office in disgrace and now the feds are stepping up their investigation of practices in Arpaio’s office.  At the same time, Pinal County Sheriff, also a staunch foe of illegal immigration, has been outed as being gay and his lover has filed a million-dollar lawsuit against him.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer slapped a bigot’s label on Mitt Romney just by endorsing him recently since she ranks right up there with Pearce and Arpaio in Jim Crowism.  And it is pretty significant that all the GOP primary candidates have stayed away from the immigration issue, although it is quite clear that Republicans are anti-illegal immigrants.  Most of them just don’t have the guts to admit it since it will certainly cost them votes.

Political consultant Chip Scutari said: “Many of the voters who support 1070 also support an earned path to citizenship.  I think border issues are in the mix. But because there’s been such a quagmire, it’s lost some of its sex appeal.”  This bothers the anti-immigration group—the economy and jobs are in the forefront now—but they think this will change when illegals start crossing the border again looking for work.

Many pro-immigrationists are convinced the GOP has done irreparable damage in the Hispanic community, which will translate into record voter registration for Latinos in November, most of which will probably vote for Barack Obama.  And although Arizona hasn’t yet suffered the disastrous effects Alabama’s anti-immigration law had on that state—crops are rotting in the fields—the Sunshine State has made budget cuts that have significantly affected residents.

I did an article for Phoenix last December that looked at the issue from the standpoint of how Arizona could have a positive impact on the Hispanic vote in November.  With all the opposition, the Latino voting-age population has jumped from 455,000 nine years ago to 845,000 today, 19 percent of the state’s population eligible to vote.  One recent show of force was indicated by Latino firefighter Daniel Valenzuela beating a white businesswoman for a spot on the Phoenix City Council.
Democrats are hoping to register approximately 300,000 new Hispanics to vote prior to November 2012.  Add to that the 455,000 already registered and you have a potentially formidable force.  If they can be convinced to vote.  Colorado may be a forewarning of what is to come.  The state was able to sign up 225,000 new Hispanics who voted in the 2008 election turning the state from red to blue, thanks to the alienation of former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo.

Then closer to home, Within 6 months of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signing anti-immigration law SB-1070 in 2010, 43,000 new Latinos were registered to vote in Colorado.  As the sayings go, ‘the monkey is on your back’ or, ‘you’ve got the ball, now run with it.’  The question is which way will the Latinos run, whether many of them will run at all, and just how much Arizona’s results will jolt the rest of the country.

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