Arizona’s new tough immigration law is roiling the state’s Republican primary for Senate, with incumbent Sen. John McCain defending the legislature for passing it and his challenger, a former congressman, accusing Mr. McCain of an election-year conversion.
Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who planned to submit a petition with 11,000 signatures on Monday to get his name on the ballot for the state’s Aug. 24 primary, told The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show on Monday that “the momentum is on my side” in the race.
“Arizonans are telling John McCain, ‘Thank you for your service, but it is time to come back home,’” Mr. Hayworth said.
The new law, which Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed Friday, makes it a state offense to be in the U.S. without authorization. Considered the toughest immigration statute in the country, it has deeply divided Arizona, where opponents of the law have rallied, and where the Associated Press reported that vandals smeared refried beans in the shape of swastikas on the state Capitol’s windows.
Criticism has also come from Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who said relations between Arizona and Mexico could suffer, and from President Obama, who said the law is an example of “irresponsibility” by the state. Mr. Obama told administration lawyers to see whether it violated civil rights statutes.
But Mr. McCain and Jon Kyl, Arizona’s junior Republican senator, took to the floor of the Senate Monday to defend the state for acting.
RELATED STORY: McCain: Ariz. had to crack down on immigration
“If you don’t like the legislation that the legislature passed and the governor signed in Arizona, then carry out the federal responsibilities, which are to secure the border — you probably wouldn’t have had this problem,” Mr. McCain said, though he stopped short of embracing the specifics of the law.
Mr. Hayworth said he strongly backs the new law, and accused Mr. McCain of changing positions. He said the senator, who has called for deploying 3,000 National Guard troops to the border, failed to support the Enforcement First Act Mr. Hayworth proposed in 2005 that included that provision.
“There is a lot of flip-flopping going on in the McCain campaign,” said Mr. Hayworth, who served in Congress from 1995 to 2007.
Recent polls show Mr. Hayworth narrowing the gap with Mr. McCain in the GOP primary. A Rasmussen poll released April 16 showed Mr. McCain’s support in the primary race at 47 percent, compared with Mr. Hayworth’s 42 percent. In January, Mr. McCain had 22-point lead.
Protesters have called on Mr. Obama to step in and try to block the law, which takes effect in July. They argue police will start racially profiling residents to enforce the law, because law enforcement officials are now authorized to demand proof someone is in the country legally.
In signing the law, Gov. Brewer said she would seek new training and clear guidelines for the police to prevent profiling.
Mr. McCain and Mr. Kyl said the state government is reacting to a situation that’s spiraled out of control. They pointed to a rancher killed in the United States last month and to tens of thousands of deaths just south of the border that have been blamed on Mexican drug cartels as evidence that extra steps are needed.
The two men have called for 3,000 troops from the National Guard to be deployed to the border and for the Justice Department to start jailing illegal immigrants they catch.
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