POLITICS AND PROTESTS
Democrats and Republicans take a wait-to-see approach to handling controversial law’s fallout
WASHINGTON — On the surface, a judge’s decision to block tough provisions of Arizona’s immigration law was a defeat for the state’s Republican governor and a win for the Democratic Obama administration. But neither party is sure it will play out that way politically, either this fall or beyond.
Beyond Arizona, where street demonstrations took place Thursday, politicians took a wait-and-see stance.
Washington-based GOP consultant Ron Bonjean said Republicans must proceed carefully with Hispanic voters. Republicans can hurt themselves for years to come if they appear unduly hostile to immigrants who came here illegally years ago, or seem indifferent to the rights of those here legally.
“The immigration issue is so sensitive,” Bonjean said. “While Republicans are using it to fire up conservatives and independents, they’ll have to find ways to talk about it without alienating Hispanic voters.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Thursday that Democrats are wrong to say Republicans are hiding prejudices behind the banner of national safety.
“There are some people who think that it’s a trick, that when we say it’s border security, that we’re not interested in a broader immigration bill,” Cornyn said in an interview at the Capitol. “I stand ready, willing and able to engage, but it’s going to take some presidential leadership.”
Democrats also were trying to sort out the ruling’s effect. It showed that the Obama administration, which sued Arizona to block the law’s implementation, had a viable legal argument that the response to illegal immigration should be national, not piecemeal. A demonstrator shouts into a bullhorn Thursday to protest of Arizona’s immigration law in front of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office in Phoenix.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged that President Barack Obama’s immigration stand may give some Democratic candidates heartburn this fall, but he said Obama doesn’t make decisions “based on polling.”
Technically, SB 1070 took effect Thursday, but U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling barred most of its provisions until a trial on the bill’s constitutionality.
In the state’s appeal, Gov. Jan Brewer asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the temporary injunction as soon as possible. Oral arguments could begin in September.
The showdown over the immigration law played out on Phoenix’s streets Thursday, as the state sought to reinstate parts of the measure and angry protesters chanted that they refused to “live in fear.” Dozens were arrested.
Hundreds of the law’s opponents massed at a Phoenix jail, beating on the metal door and forcing sheriff’s deputies to call for backup. Officers arrested at least 32 people, and dozens more were detained elsewhere throughout the day.
Activists focused their rage at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the 78-year-old ex-federal drug agent known for his immigration sweeps.
Outside his office, marchers chanted “Sheriff Joe, we are here. We will not live in fear.” Arpaio said he’d continue with a sweep Thursday.
“I’m not going to be intimidated and stopped,” he said. “If I have to go out and get in the car, I’ll do it.”
In Tucson, 50 to 100 people on both sides of the issue gathered at a street corner. Protesters blocked a busy Los Angeles intersection and police arrested about a dozen who were linked with plastic pipes and chains.
In New York, about 300 immigrant advocates rallied near the federal courthouse in Manhattan.
“It’s one step closer for us, but I think the fight is still ahead,” said Adelfa Lugo, a 56-year-old Mexican-born Brooklyn resident who joined the protest. “If we don’t fight this in Arizona, this anti-immigrant feeling will spread across the country.”