Republicans Courting Anti-Immigration Pundits
In the wake of the passage of Arizona’s immigration laws, we’ve seen a return to the stump of some of the GOP’s best-known anti-immigration pundits:
The country’s highest-profile foes of illegal immigration are in high demand on the campaign circuit, as the renewed debate over immigration reform makes their endorsements an increasingly valuable commodity in many Republican primary elections.
GOP candidates eager to show off their conservative credentials on the issue are looking for help from figures like former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo and Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a national name for himself by cracking down on illegal immigrants in the Phoenix area.
Tancredo, who ran a quixotic 2008 presidential campaign focused on immigration, issued the most recent of some 30 endorsements this cycle on Wednesday, backing Arizona congressional candidate Sam Crump for the seat of retiring Republican Rep. John Shadegg. Crump, a former state representative, was an original co-sponsor of Arizona legislation making it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally and empowering police to question people’s immigration status upon reasonable suspicion that they might lack proper documentation.
That was just one episode in a busy day for Tancredo, who also held a rally Wednesday for Republican Gunner DeLay in Arkansas’s 3rd Congressional District. And it’s not only House races where he’s weighing in: Kansas Rep. Jerry Moran, who’s running in a competitive GOP Senate primary, touts Tancredo’s endorsement in his website.
For someone dismissed as a gadfly during the 2008 GOP presidential primaries, there’s a certain vindication in his newfound status as a conservative validator. Tancredo boasted to POLITICO: “Today everyone sounds like Tom Tancredo on immigration.
“John McCain sounds like Tom Tancredo,” he said, joking: “There’s an impostor running around in Arizona saying all the right stuff…I’m expecting him to request my endorsement any day now.”
None of this, including John McCain’s sudden conversion from immigration reformer to border cop, is really all that surprising considering that most recent polls show overwhelming public support for the Arizona law:
A majority of the public support Arizona’s tough immigration law which has been criticized by President Barack Obama and outraged civil rights groups, according to an opinion poll published Wednesday.
A study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found broad US public support for key provisions of the Arizona immigration crackdown, which opponents have claimed will lead to ethnic profiling by police.
The law, which gives police the power to question an individual’s immigration status and makes illegal immigration a state crime, has prompted calls for a boycott of Arizona by local officials in neighboring states.
However the Pew study of 994 adults surveyed between May 6-9 found that the Arizona immigration reform has struck a chord with the US public.
Some 73 percent of those surveyed said they approved of the provision which requires people to provide proof of their legal status, compared with 23 percent who disapproved.
A further 67 percent were in favor of allowing police to detain anyone unable to verify their legal status, while 62 percent supported police having the power to question anyone they believed may in the country illegally.
Overall, 59 percent of respondents approved of the Arizona law while 32 percent disapproved, the study found.
So, as is usually the case, being aggressive on immigration is politically advantageous. The problem for Republicans, though, is two-fold.
First, while the Arizona law may be overwhelmingly popular nationwide, it is overwhelmingly unpopular among Hispanics. Just as Republican support for Proposition 187 sixteen years ago went a long way toward making California a Democratic enclave, support for Arizona’s law could end up hurting Republicans in the Southwest and other parts of the country where Hispanic voters are high in numbers.
Second, pandering to the anti-illegal immigration crowd like this is likely to make it difficult for Republicans to actually fix the immigration problem when they get back in power. The 2007 immigration bill — the so-called “amnesty” bill that the right unceremoniously shot down — was actually a fairly decent compromise on an issue that can’t be solved by soundbites. Making the Tom Tancredo’s of the world the poster child for Republican immigration policy just means that the issue will remain as political red meat, not that it will ever actually be resolved.