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Tracking the Issues: State Laws in Lieu of Immigration Reform

by Newsteam Staff
March 29, 2012

A U.S. Border Patrol Agent patrols along the U.S. and Mexico border in Naco, Arizona Sempteber 7, 2011. (Joshua Lott/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. Border Patrol Agent patrols along the U.S. and Mexico border in Naco, Arizona Sempteber 7, 2011. (Joshua Lott/Courtesy Reuters)

Though immigration seems to be sliding off the radar as a campaign issue, major legal fights over state immigration laws continues, particularly the upcoming Supreme Court fight over Arizona’s law.

Eleven attorneys general recently filed an amicus brief (HuffPo) supporting the federal government’s case against a broad and strict law in Arizona, which Gov. Jan Brewer argues is necessary (Reuters) because she believes the federal government has failed the people by not securing the border. One of the law’s main provision’s would require police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain or suspected was in the country illegally. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case in April.

In Alabama, parts of another state law that would ban doing business with illegal immigrants (MontgomeryAdvertiser) have been blocked by a federal appeals court. Mississippi lawmakers are working on legislation that would put stringent restrictions on immigrants, attempting to write a law that will stand up to court challenges (Reuters).

In spite of the court battles, immigration appears to be to be a low priority for voters according to recent polls. In a recent Gallup poll, it ranked fourteenth in a list of the top fifteen issues voters are concerned about, above only “race relations.” Republican voter concern exceeds Democratic voters by more than 10 percentage points for illegal immigration, according to Gallup. A Fox News Latino poll said nearly 50 percent of Latino likely voters said jobs and the economy were the top issues for them when choosing a candidate for president while only 12 percent picked immigration.

The immigration issue also has challenged candidates on both sides. The fight is costing the GOP votes, as the Republicans vying for the party’s presidential nomination have adopted harsh stances on immigration or come out in support of tough state laws, driving away Latino voters (LAT). It has been particularly problematic for Mitt Romney, who has adopted a very hard line message against illegal immigration in an effort to woo the very conservative voters (Politico). President Barack Obama may have troubles of his own courting the Hispanic vote this election cycle, having deported more illegal immigrants than his predecessor and failing to get his comprehensive immigration reform legislation passed.

For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on the Candidates and Immigration.

Suggested Other Reading:

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Task Force on Immigration, discusses Republican candidates’ proposals to legalize but deny citizenship to immigrants at Fox News Latino.

A Center for American Progress report looks at life as an undocumented immigrant and recommends a number of policy responses.

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