Politics

Immigration Suit Is Big Political Gamble

Democrats in the Southwest could face voter wrath as a result of the Justice Department action against Arizona

The federal-state high noon in Arizona over immigration is a political powder keg -- at least in the short term.

Western conservatives and anti-immigration groups will benefit for now as the federal government and the Obama administration seem incapable of slowing illegal immigration or even taking a hard stand. The Justice Department lawsuit, aimed at blocking Arizona’s new law on constitutional grounds, won’t do anything to address illegal immigration, and many in Arizona and elsewhere are eager to see if the state law will work. Public opinion polls show widespread support for the law, which makes it a state crime for illegal immigrants to be in Arizona.

Unless the state law is blocked by the courts, it will take effect July 29. That will lead to a torrent of both applause and criticism: Applause from conservative corners and states’ rights activists for striking at least some fear in illegal immigrants. Lots of criticism, too -- charges of police harassment of legal citizens, wrongful detentions and reports and You Tube videos of anything even remotely resembling racial profiling. It’s a true mess.

Obama’s problem is that there aren’t any surefire or short-term policy or enforcement fixes. A locked-tight, secure Southwestern border, as many conservatives want before agreeing to work on larger immigration reform, is a fantasy. So is the belief that the 1,200 National Guard troops Obama is sending to the border and the purchase of more high-tech night vision equipment will have anything beyond a minimal impact.

Add to the troubling mix, there’s no true will in Congress or the administration to overhaul immigration laws this year -- despite presidential speechifying to the contrary. Western Democrats, in particular, will be careful in the near term not to tread anywhere near proposals that critics label amnesty. It’s politically easier for them not to take a position for the time being and hope that the campaign debate moves to another subject.

Time will fast run out for anything as complicated and passion fueled as immigration reform. Longer term, the Arizona showdown could spark more serious efforts at immigration overhaul. Republicans don’t want to further alienate Hispanic minorities in the next presidential election, and Democrats want something to prove that they are serious about overhauling immigration and dealing with the 11 million illegal immigrants already here. Also, businesses will step up pressure on both parties for progress, such as pushing the development of tamper-proof biometric identity cards for legal residents.

There’ll be far more heat than light on immigration for months yet. The best window for serious reform will be next year after the midterm, as passions cool a bit, or in 2013 after the presidential election.

Most Popular

Where's My Refund? How to Track Your Tax Refund Status
tax refunds

Where's My Refund? How to Track Your Tax Refund Status

If you're waiting for your tax refund, the IRS has an online tool that lets you track the status of your payment.
March 2, 2021
Will Your Stimulus Check Increase Your Tax on Social Security Benefits?
Coronavirus and Your Money

Will Your Stimulus Check Increase Your Tax on Social Security Benefits?

The answer to this question comes down to whether your stimulus check increases your "provisional income."
March 1, 2021
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021

Recommended

Flying This Summer? What to Expect
Travel

Flying This Summer? What to Expect

Depending on your destination, you may need to show a negative COVID test or even prove you’ve been vaccinated.
February 23, 2021
Biden Steers PPP Loans to Smallest Businesses
Coronavirus and Your Money

Biden Steers PPP Loans to Smallest Businesses

For two weeks, mom-and-pop businesses will move to the front of the line for Paycheck Protection Program loans.
February 22, 2021
President Biden's Tax Plans for the Next Few Years
Politics

President Biden's Tax Plans for the Next Few Years

With control of both the House and Senate in Democratic hands, President Biden will be able to get more of his tax policy proposals through Congress. …
February 3, 2021
What to Expect if You're Flying in 2021
Travel

What to Expect if You're Flying in 2021

Policies enacted by the airlines in 2020 may change air travel for the long haul.
January 24, 2021