If Arizona turns blue this election cycle against the long odds, Democrats just might have the state’s controversial immigration law to thank for it.
As the Supreme Court embarks on deliberating the constitutionality of the law on Wednesday, the reignited debate over the issue in the midst of a presidential election year has the potential to mobilize the much-sought-after Hispanic vote and have significant consequences for Arizona’s shifting political landscape.
SB 1070, considered by many to be the harshest immigration measure in generations, touched off a firestorm when it was signed into law two years ago by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. The bill made failure to carry documentation of legal status a misdemeanor and required police to determine the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being undocumented, although an injunction stopped the provisions from going into effect until the case is decided.
Critics say the measure opens the door for racial discrimination and a patchwork of immigration enforcement laws across states. Supporters counter that the federal government has failed to do its job in coming up with a solution to the nation’s millions of illegal immigrants and that Arizona was justified in taking matters into its own hands.
No matter what the outcome, the decision, to be handed down in June, is likely to inflame passions for those on both sides just a few months in advance of the November election.
An influx of Latinos in Arizona has only recently opened up the possibility of eroding Republicans’ firm hold on the state. In the past decade, 600,000 were added to the its population—bringing them to a whopping 30 percent of Arizona’s population, according to the latest Census figures. Because Latinos tend to overwhelmingly favor Democrats, similar demographic changes in states like Colorado and New Mexico have transformed Arizona’s neighbors into swing states, if not reliable Democratic pickups.