Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Border battles

The other day at The American Street, I discussed the passage of the anti-immigrant Proposition 200 in Arizona and its ramifications for the nation generally and Republicans specifically, especially in terms of its radicalization.

As I reported then, it was clear the Prop 200 victory was going to be a stepping-stone for similar if not identical campaigns in a number of other states. Now according to the Arizona Republic, as many as 30 such campaigns are now in the works:
Organizers here said the interest echoing across the country signifies a mounting movement fueled by widespread public infuriation with lax border enforcement. Anti-illegal immigration groups from Tennessee to Utah want to pull up the welcome mat, seal the southern borders and "take our country back."

"We're watching Arizona very closely, it's one of the vanguard states," said Jimmy Herchek, of metro Atlanta and a member of Georgians for Immigration Reduction. "People are very energized right now. They see the tide turning."

About 30 grass-roots groups at various degrees of organization are associated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the national anti-illegal immigration group funded much of the Proposition 200 campaign. FAIR uses these groups to mobilize its national agenda of opposition to amnesty or guest-worker programs, an end to or decrease in immigration and improved border security. With a membership of 70,000 nationally and 5,000 in Arizona, the groups intend to tell politicians the American appetite for illegal immigration is saturated.

The key battleground will be in California, as the Los Angeles Times reported. As in Arizona, don't look for Republicans to give it much official support:
The California initiative would block illegal immigrants from accessing local and state benefits and from getting driver's licenses. Citizens would also be able to sue state or local government who do not comply with the law.

Earlier this year, organizers of a similar measure failed to obtain enough signatures to place it on the California ballot. Some analysts say the latest initiative also could run into difficulties because it likely won't have support from many Republicans, who lost political clout because of their support for Proposition 187, which was perceived by many as anti-Hispanic.

"The Republican Party got badly burned," said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant. "We're not thrilled that we do that battle again."

The anti-immigrant extremists, though, don't really care about that -- for now. They have a broader agenda in mind, which is to pull the party farther right:
Some analysts think the initiative stands a solid chance of getting on the ballot, especially if organizers are able to receive funding from groups outside the state. The Arizona initiative's main backer was the FAIR, a Washington D.C.-based group.

"I think it will pick up steam, but not because it will solve the immigration problem," said Rick Swartz, a longtime Washington political consultant on immigration policy. "They can't succeed in Congress, so they go to the states to generate a public backlash in order to have an angrier populace."

Unsurprisingly, if you give these folks an inch of legitimacy, they'll take it for a mile of unanticipated consequences. Already, Prop. 200 proponents in Arizona are pushing for a broader application of the proposition than was originally sold to Arizonans:
Less than a week after voter approval, the head of one of the groups pushing Proposition 200 said he will argue in court that it applies to more than just welfare.

Much more.

Like getting disability payments, housing assistance, a license to hunt, a permit to operate a taco stand and even a library card.

And maybe more.

Randy Pullen, chairman of the Yes on 200 Committee, said the initiative covers limiting to legal residents anything defined in federal law as a "state or local benefit." He said that the section was placed in Title 46, the state’s Welfare Code, is immaterial.

The most disturbing aspect of this agitation is that it's being orgainzed in states that are already showing signs of racial tensions because of demographic shifts involving Latinos. It may have the effect of setting off a spark in what is already a tinderbox.

This is already notably the case in California. Last week's outbreak of racial tensions among teenagers Ventura County was only the latest incident in what is already clearly a racially sensitive situation in many parts of California.

I'm sure that when it blows up, though, it will all be the fault of liberals somehow.

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