Fed’s challenge to Arizona immigration law piles pressure on Democrats
When President Barack Obama’s administration sued Arizona over the state’s tough-as-nails immigration law this week, he piled pressure on House Democrats in the state facing a tough battle for reelection in November, analysts say.
The administration on Tuesday argued that the Arizona law, which requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of anyone who they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally, is unconstitutional and would sap law enforcement resources.
Analysts say the move wrong footed several House Democrats locked in competitive reelection races in the desert border state, where the new immigration law consistently scores solid poll ratings among a broad spectrum of voters.
“It is a proactive act that is effectively blocking something that the voters want,” Rice University political science professor Mark Jones told Reuters. “Any Democrat in a competitive race is not going to like this.”
Those facing potential fallout from the legal challenge are Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords, who are all seeking reelection in Arizona congressional districts that already lean Republican.
“The people who view what Obama is doing as positive are going to vote Democrat anyway … but what this does is mobilize more Republicans in the districts to turn out and vote against them, and probably depresses the vote of people who might have voted for them,” Jones added.
Giffords, who wrested the 8th congressional district from Republican control after Rep. Jim Kolbe retired in 2006, was clearly forced into a difficult balancing act by the lawsuit. She issued a statement in which she called both the law and the administration’s suit “unnecessary distractions.”
“Arizonans want our nation to control its borders and bring a halt to the violence, smugglers and drugs that threaten our way of life,” she added.
While Republicans may yet reap a backlash going forward from Hispanic anger at their embracing the controversial state law, the GOP front-runner challenging Giffords in southeast Arizona made hay over her discomfort.
“Unfortunately, Gabrielle Giffords’ decision to oppose this law and speak out against our state appears to have played a hand in fueling the boycotts and lawsuits to which we in Arizona are now subjected,” Jonathan Paton said in a statement posted on his campaign website.
“I’m confident that Giffords, Obama and the Washington lawyers will end up on the losing side of this attack on our state and our security.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama speaks about immigration reform on July 1), Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Arizona Governor Jan Brewer at White House June 3), Reuters/Joshua Lott (Demonstrators protest against Arizona law May 5)