Once Again, Immigration Is A Hot Campaign Issue Republicans plan to use Democrats' opposition to Arizona's controversial law as a key talking point in this fall's campaigns.
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Once Again, Immigration Is A Hot Campaign Issue

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Once Again, Immigration Is A Hot Campaign Issue

Once Again, Immigration Is A Hot Campaign Issue

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

As the midterm elections approach, the immigration issue�has gone from simmer to full boil. The reason is Arizona. There, Republican Governor Jan Brewer is waiting to hear if an appeals court will reinstate the most controversial elements of a law designed to crack down on illegal immigration. Brewer's support for Senate Bill 1070 may be helping in her re-election bid. And now more Republicans are picking up the immigration mantle, hoping it will help them, too, come November.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY: Immigration is a big topic on national conservative radio shows like "Sean Hannity."

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Sean Hannity Show")

Mr. SEAN HANNITY (Host, "The Sean Hannity Show"): It's not really a complicated problem because all we need to do is control our borders.

BRADY: And on local radio too.

(Soundbite of radio show, "The Peter Boyles Show")

Mr. PETER BOYLES (Host, "The Peter Boyles Show"): Stan(ph), you're on the show, good morning.

BRADY: On Peter Boyles' show in Denver, callers phoned in their frustration.

STAN: Number one, that judge in Arizona ought to be hung, impeached or fired for what he had done to the...

Mr. BOYLES: It was a woman judge.

STAN: Yeah, well, she should be.

BRADY: U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton placed restrictions on key provisions of Senate Bill 1070, including one that instructs police to check immigration status when enforcing other laws. Security at the courthouse in Phoenix has been strengthened because of threats Bolton received.

The news out of Arizona is hitting home as far away as a small town in South Carolina, where a city councilman wants to force employers to check immigration status of workers and landlords to check renters.

On the campaign trail, Republicans are drawing particular attention to a May 20th speech Mexico's President Felipe Calderon delivered to a joint session of Congress.

President FELIPE CALDERON (Mexico): I strongly disagree with the recently adopted law in Arizona.

(Soundbite of applause)

BRADY: Democrats stood up and applauded as Republicans remained seated. In Colorado, Senate candidate Ken Buck told a Tea Party gathering outside Denver that he would've reacted even more strongly than his GOP colleagues did.

Mr. KEN BUCK (Senate Candidate, Colorado): I will stand up. I will turn my back and I will leave whatever chamber I am in to make sure that person won't get in.

(Soundbite of applause)

BRADY: You can bet images of Democrats standing up and applauding Calderon will show up in campaign ads soon, says former Colorado Congressman Bob Beauprez, who's a Republican. Speaking over a scratchy telephone line from his ranch in the Rocky Mountains, Beauprez says immigration already has been a key issue in the Republican primary in Colorado.

Mr. BOB BEAUPREZ (Former Congressman, Colorado): The contestants are trying to appear, at least, tougher on the issue than their opponent. Everybody's trying to one up the other one.

BRADY: Immigration is one of those hot-button issues that can mobilize voters and that can be especially important in a midterm election when turnout is lower. But it's not just supporters of the Arizona law who are angry. Those who oppose it have vented their anger during street protests. It's not clear, though, that outrage over the law will prompt Latino voters to turn out in greater numbers than they did in the last midterm election.

Stanford political science professor Gary Segura does consulting and polling for Latino and Democratic-leaning organizations. He says many Latinos are discouraged because President Obama didn't make good on his campaign pledge to overhaul immigration laws.

Professor GARY SEGURA (Political Science, Stanford University): I would predict that Latino voter turnout in 2010 would be lower than Latino voter turnout in 2006, which would be damaging for the Democrats.

BRADY: In the long term, Segura says, the immigration issue may hurt Republicans, as minorities make up an increasing share of the electorate. He points to the California experience in the wake of Proposition 187, which barred illegal immigrants from accessing state services. It helped Republican Governor Pete Wilson win re-election in 1994. But the backlash helped establish a Democratic majority in California that has proven difficult for Republicans to overcome. Now some are wondering if that same situation may be playing out in Arizona.

Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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