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Transition 2012

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Immigration Update: Debate Intensifies After Arizona Case

by Newsteam Staff
April 26, 2012

Opponent and supporter of Arizona immigration law outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington April 25, 2012 (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters) Opponent and supporter of Arizona immigration law outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington April 25, 2012 (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)


After a day of oral arguments on Arizona’s controversial immigration law in the U.S. Supreme Court,  some analysts are speculating (CSMonitor) President Barack Obama is headed for a potential election-year defeat.

The Obama administration opposes the law, arguing it is in conflict with the federal government’s control over immigration (LAT). Obama’s Solicitor General Donald Verrilli also attempted to make the case that the law could harm foreign relations (NPR), particularly antagonizing Mexico, which the United States needs to be cooperatives on things such as border security, as well as jeopardize pending asylum cases, in which the legal status of immigrants is more murky.

But court watchers have said justices seemed very reluctant to buy the government’s arguments. “Coupled with last month’s argument over Obama’s health-care overhaul, the session raised the possibility of a one-two punch hitting the president in June, when the court might invalidate his signature domestic achievement and uphold the core of the Arizona law his administration went to court to stop,”  says Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr.

No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the debate over immigration will likely intensify on the campaign trail, particularly as candidates vie for Latino voters. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has been supportive of the Arizona law on the campaign trail, though some say his position has alienated Latino voters.

In an op-ed for the Boston Herald, conservative commentator Linda Chavez says if Romney wants to beat Barack Obama in the fall, he  must make amends with Hispanic voters after “beating up on illegal immigrants” to boost his conservative credentials in the primary. She offers a possible speech Romney could give to make it happen, including promises to “stop pandering to ideologues and hatemongers and come up with [a legal immigration] system that is good for America.”

But GOP immigration hawks are warning Romney not to moderate the hard-line stances on border security and deportation that he took during the GOP primary. “Any reversal on these positions would destroy his credibility, alienate conservative American voters who outnumber Latino voters, and exert the same pressures on Mitt Romney that destroyed John McCain and Rick Perry’s campaigns,” William Gheen, the head of the anti-illegal immigration group ALIPAC, told The Hill.

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

Suggested Other Reading:

In a March report, Brookings’ Audrey Singer examines the immigrant share of the country’s labor force and finds that as the United States experiences sweeping demographic changes, the labor market will increasingly depend upon immigrants and their children to replace current workers and fill new jobs.

In the National Review, Mark Krikorian writes that the current stasis in immigration from Mexico is not time to relax but “opportunity to complete our immigration infrastructure,” including requiring employers to use E-Verify when hiring and developing a formal check-out system for foreign visitors. “And, despite the howls from the Left (and from some on the right), any real immigration infrastructure requires systematic and routine cooperation among local, state, and federal governments, so that every illegal immigrant who encounters the authorities is identified and removed,” he says.

— Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich

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