Arizona law re-energizes immigration debate

April 28, 2010 7:45:27 PM PDT
Opponents of Arizona's new immigration law are rising up from Washington to San Francisco. The law is reigniting the debate over how the country should deal with millions of illegal immigrants.

In Washington D.C., members of Congress protested the Arizona law and called for new efforts to reach comprehensive immigration reform.

Democratic members of the Hispanic, Asian, and black caucuses stood outside the Capitol calling the Arizona law an embarrassment.

"The time is now for Congress to pass legislation to bring the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

But there isn't much enthusiasm among the Democratic leadership in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said energy, not immigration, will be next after financial reform.

So this Saturday thousands of demonstrators will take to the streets to decry the Arizona law and calling for meaningful reform. One of those May Day marches will be in San Francisco.

"We need to come together and tell the Arizona legislators that they just made the gravest mistake that they have ever made," said Pablo Rodriguez from the City College of San Francisco.

The Arizona law permits police to check the legal status of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. In Orinda, Yeh Ling-Ling heads a group that wants to reduce legal immigration - Alliance For Sustainable USA. She says the Arizona law is necessary.

"The United States, it's broke. We have no choice and our priority really is toward American citizens," said Ling-Ling.

Tea Party activists believe the issue will energize their base and help conservatives in November.

But immigration could also hurt conservative candidates, if large numbers of Hispanics turn against them, as they did when California passed Proposition 187 which sought to limit services to undocumented immigrants.

"And that's going to make everybody very cautious about opening up this can," said ABC7's political analyst Bruce Cain.

Cain said the law in Arizona has forced the issue onto the political front burner, but he doesn't think candidates in California's governor's race or Senate race will make an issue of immigration.

"You might get some general words about the need to take up the issue and the need to think up a comprehensive plan, but I don't think they're going to get into specifics because I don't think there's any political payoff for that," said Cain.

Meg Whitman has said the Arizona law is the wrong approach. Jerry Brown also opposes it. Steve Poizner supports the measure and would like to cut services to undocumented immigrants and make immigration more of an issue.

On the Senate side, ABC7 received the same sort of general statements that Cain predicted.

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