Opponents unwittingly make Ariz. immigration law more popular

When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed her state’s new immigration law on April 23, reaction from the political Left was swift and furious. They predicted jack-booted rogue cops staging midnight raids on the homes of everyone.

But after over a month of national debate and media coverage – including criticism from both the American and Mexican presidents, and a host of newly minted experts, a curious thing is happening.  The state’s new law has not led to massive deportation or racial cleansing in the desert. And there is even some evidence it’s growing in popularity, both in Arizona and nationally.

Ironically the same liberals, intent on tearing down the new law through hyperbolic invective, may be contributing to its widening support.

Arizona’s immigration law deeply offends the sensibilities of most liberals – particularly those who don’t live there. Their rhetoric would be comical if it weren’t so predictable.

Miguel Guadalupe, writing at the Huffington Post, described the measure as a “Gestapo Law.”  Colombian singer Shakira called it “unjust and inhuman.”  Seth MacFarlane, creator of the TV show “Family Guy,” told Reuters Television, “Nobody but the Nazis ever asked anybody for their papers.”

Last week, “Desperate Housewives” star, turned immigration/federalism expert, Eva Longoria, attending a White House state dinner for Mexican President Felipe Calderón, scolded, “You can’t have these states doing their own punitive laws when immigration is a federal issue.”   Thanks, Eva. Maybe next you can tell us why it was a good idea to use budget reconciliation to pass health care?

But enough from these policy gurus.

The knee-jerk hyperbole creates a new cause for Hollywood celebrities and liberal pundits to show off their political credentials.  But for the rest of the country, it focuses attention on the unique challenges facing this border state.

Most Americans appreciate the tensions that led to the passage of the Arizona law. Unfortunately, many liberals, including President Obama and his allies in Hollywood, do not. They would rather grandstand and pander.

William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and a former advisor to Bill Clinton, is one Democrat that understands the complicated politics and policy surrounding this issue. Galston is also the co-editor of a thoughtful blog called the Democratic Strategist. Last week he wrote a piece (cross posted at the New Republic) titled, “Why Immigration Reform is Bad Politics This Year.” “But I still have no idea why some leading Democrats, such as Chuck Shumer, think that pushing this issue right now will be helpful in November,” Galston writes.  “If they believe that recent events in Arizona have created a public groundswell for a more liberal response, they’re just wrong.”

Recent surveys from CBS/New York Times (51 percent say the law’s “about right”),  Pew (59 percent “endorsed” the measure), NBC/Wall Street Journal (64 percent supported the law), and Gallup (51 percent support) reinforce Galston’s point.

The Los Angeles Times finds support is “up significantly” from a similar poll done a month earlier. These results all track Rasmussen’s data which show 55 percent of likely voters nationally support the law, but also 71 percent within the state of Arizona – up from 64 percent in late April.

I don’t live in Arizona, but many of my family and friends do.  I travel there a lot and just returned from a trip several weeks ago. My light-hearted references above about the Hollywood glitterati should in no way detract from the seriousness and complicated nature of this issue.

Residents are frustrated, angry and, even, fearful.  They live with an immigration emergency every day. Most believe the situation has spun out of control, including the clergymen, teachers or law enforcement professionals dealing its consequences, or Latino families worried about their families’ future.

Achieving consensus in this debate is like finding a pebble in the Sonoran Desert. But Arizonans reached a state of panic. Hearing sanctimonious Hollywood liberals and President Obama preach about the morality of the state’s response sounds out of touch. Watching Democrats in Congress engage in what the National Review’s Rich Lowry call “national self-abasement,” as these lawmakers gave the Mexican president a standing ovation for criticizing the state’s action, only fuels their outrage at Washington.

Maybe if Obama, Democrats in Congress, and their Silver Screen friends spent more time helping and talking to Governor Brewer – and fewer hours primping for state dinners or pumping up foreign critics – they’d have a better perspective.

Most Americans agree.

Beltway Confidentialelection 2010immigrationUS

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