Latinos and Immigration
The Supreme Court’s decision in the SB 1070 case is a big win for opponents of the law. Although it leaves the odious “show me your papers” provision in place, the posture of that case as a facial challenge always made that a tough claim to win in this case, and the Court left the door open for a subsequent as-applied challenge. Since it seems impossible to implement that provision without the use of racial profiling, I think the odds of success for such a challenge are very good.
Somewhat relatedly, this Gallup poll helps to put SB 1070 and the attitudes of Latino voters towards immigration into context.
I’m especially interested in the right-hand column (Latino voters) and how it differs from the left-hand column (Latinos in general). I find it totally unsurprising and not at all contradictory for two things to be simultaneously true: (1) immigration is not the most important political issue for most Latino voters and (2) Latinos are likely to vote overwhelmingly for Obama in his reelection bid because of Republican immigration efforts like SB 1070.
Since Latino voters are disproportionately at the bottom of the income ladder, they are concerned about the same sorts of bread-and-butter issues that worry other low-income people (health care, unemployment, etc.). This is true even of immigration, about which Latino voters have very complicated views. As low-income people, they are more directly impacted by new migrants competing with them for jobs. Most would not support the notion of open borders. Most would acknowledge the legitimacy of efforts to combat illegal immigration while sympathizing with those who have been here illegally for a long time.
All that said, they perceive a great deal of anti-Latino animus coming from the Republican base on this issue. And they are disgusted by the way in which Republican politicians have been willing to pander to that animus. This administration has a very mixed record on deportation. (And I only say mixed because of pretty recent policy initiatives that have yet to bear fruit. If it weren’t for those, it’s record would be unambiguously bad.) But the administration has not mixed its harsh deportation policies with the kind of harsh Latino-bashing rhetoric that has characterized Republican immigration politics. I think this poll supports the notion that Latino disapproval of the Republican party has less to do with substantive policy goals (although those matter) than with hateful rhetoric and racial profiling coming from people like Sheriff Joe.
This brings me back around to SB 1070. The show-me-your-papers provision is symbolic of the connection between opposition to illegal immigration and anti-Latino animus on the right. It provides very little bang for the buck, and many (most?) of those paying the buck will be lawfully resident Latinos. They are the ones who will be most inconvenienced by demands to produce documentation of their right to be here and they will be made to feel less secure in their daily lives by the possibility of such demands. And so its survival substantially mitigates the implications of today’s decision for Latinos in Arizona and elsewhere. I think it is very telling that Jan Brewer calls today’s decision striking down virtually the entire bill except for the show-me-your-papers provision a “victory.” Brewer even referred to it “the heart of SB 1070.” [Identifying the provision most likely to humiliate and frighten lawful Latino residents (while doing very little to combat illegal immigration) as the "heart" of a bill seems to confirm the widespread Latino perception that much of the anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric coming out of the Republican party is actually demographic panic dressed up as a color-blind desire to protect the rule of law. And though many Latinos do not consider immigration to be a priority will allow the Republican approach to the issue to guide their voting choice this November. But the real issue will not be illegal immigration, or even immigration policy more broadly. It will be disgust with a party whose base questions our presence here, legally or not.]
UPDATE: I added a few additional comments in brackets at the end.