When the state's economy collapsed and the unemployment rate soared, the issue of immigration took a back seat.
But Arizona’s new immigration law has reignited the debate, in time to make it an issue candidates will have to address, like it or not.
A strong position for or against will galvanize the Latino vote. That one is easy to predict. But a more nuanced reaction is likely from many African-American voters. Many will be the first to shout against any form of racial profiling. But perhaps not so loud will be the issue of unemployment. The recession has hit African-Americans particularly hard, and any action that might increase the number of available jobs in this country is likely to be at least quietly applauded.
The issue is also helping define the candidates for governor. Republican Steve Poizner is hoping the issue will cement him as the most conservative candidate. While he hasn’t come out in support of the new Arizona law, he hasn’t rejected it either.
“We’ll watch closely to see how the law in Arizona is implemented and whether it produces positive results,” says Poizner. In the meantime, he has a new ad out there that states his opposition to services for illegal immigrants, and paints his GOP Primary opponent Meg Whitman as soft on immigration.
Whitman takes a more moderate position telling the Associated Press she opposes the new law, but saying she favors sanctions against businesses that hire undocumented workers. Likely a good call for a candidate running on bringing jobs to California. And likely a good call for a candidate who may find herself having to move more to the center if she finds herself the GOP nominee in the November election.
De facto Democratic nominee Jerry Brown calls the new law “problematic”. His position is that the feds need to step up to the plate, secure the border and create real immigration reform. Not exactly a outright rejection of the Arizona law, but Brown knows part of his base may be the very people who stand to lose jobs to undocumented workers. He also reached out to the Latino voter base calling undocumented workers “an important part of our economic life.”
Immigration is now back on the political menu, alongside human rights, racial profiling, and the tastiest item of all: jobs.