(All emphasis is mine)
Democrats in Arizona are coming out vociferously against the Obama administration’s lawsuit challenging Arizona’s new immigration law, but Arizona Republican Governor Jan Brewer is not buying it. Arizona Democratic Representatives Gabrielle Giffords, Ann Kirkpatrick, and Harry Mitchell have criticized the action of the Department of Justice.
Governor Brewer is not impressed. At the National Governors Association conference in Boston on Saturday, I asked the Arizona Republican, included as a defendant herself in the federal lawsuit against her state, if she thought these Democrats were playing politics and trying to appease voters in their districts.
“Of course—absolutely. I think that they were not supportive of Senate Bill 1070 when it was enacted, and [they] kind of laid in the shadows,” she said. “And now of course it’s become a political issue and, overwhelmingly, the people of Arizona support Senate Bill 1070. That affects their elections. They are responding to their constituency.”
It has been repeatedly reported that Ms. Kirkpatrick, Mr. Mitchell, and Ms. Giffords are either first or second term House Democrats with tough re-elections. They represent districts that voted for Republican presidential candidates John McCain and George W. Bush by wide margins in the last two election cycles.
A May 20 Rasmussen poll reported that 71 percent of Arizonans support the immigration law, so it is unsurprising these three Democrats are scrambling to show their voters some kind of outrage over the Arizona lawsuit. Furthermore, A July 8 Rasmussen poll reported that 56 percent of Americans oppose the DOJ lawsuit against Arizona.
However, reports of the Arizona Democratic lawmakers past statements (or non-statement to the initial passage of SB 1070 in Rep. Mitchell’s case) on the matter do not coincide with their present reaction to the government’s lawsuit:
“Federal lawyers arguing with state lawyers will do nothing to strengthen border security or to fix our broken immigration laws. The supreme irony of the lawsuit is its premise that SB1070 intrudes on the federal government’s responsibility to enforce immigration laws. Had the federal government taken that responsibility seriously in the past, neither today’s lawsuit nor the state law that prompted it would be necessary.”
—U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
However, as I pointed out in my June 19 post (Legal fight over SB 1070 could sink Arizona Dems in November), Ms. Giffords reaction to the announcement was a little different and more critical of the Arizona law. Jewish News reported on May 28:
Contrary to what was reported by CNN, Giffords did not back SB 1070, the immigration law that opponents say is legalized racial profiling. Instead, she released a statement in which she said:
“Arizona is now known around the world for enacting an extreme immigration law in response to the federal government’s failure to act. This law does nothing to secure our border. My hope is that the events that have unfolded in Phoenix recently are a wake-up call to Washington politicians who for too long have refused to take seriously their responsibility to address the crisis on our border. The people of Arizona are angry and so am I. Southern Arizona, in particular, has paid a heavy price because of drug smuggling and illegal immigration.”
Congresswoman Kirkpatrick also modified her stance regarding the immigration law after the government filed their lawsuit:
“This lawsuit is a sideshow, distracting us from the real task at hand. A court battle between the federal government and Arizona will not move us closer to securing the border or fixing America’s broken immigration system. The legal fights and boycotts are drawing focus and attention away from what has to be a policy driven, substantive debate.”
—U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick
In May, though, Congresswoman Kirkpatrick sang a very different tune. The Arizona Daily Sun reported her saying:
Members of the public twice asked U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, what she thought of Arizona’s new immigration legislation during a phone conference last week.
She responded: ‘I do not support the Senate bill that passed, although I understand the frustration of the Legislature in wanting to do something the federal government hasn’t … I think it goes a little too far.’
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat, who is running for governor follows suit in terms of where he was in April and where he is today on SB 1070. A Fox News Phoenix affiliate reported:
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard says he opposes an immigration enforcement bill passed by the Legislature and hopes Gov. Jan Brewer vetoes it.
Goddard said Tuesday that the bill “does nothing to improve border security or address the core issues of illegal immigration.” He also said it would “take law enforcement resources away from stopping more serious crimes.”
His opposition to the law caused such a rift between the Arizona Attorney General and Governor Brewer, he was kicked off the SB 1070 team all together. After his removal, he is reported to have said on May 30:
The governor is relying on a provision in the law that says Brewer “may direct counsel other than the attorney general to appear on behalf of this state” to defend the law.
Goddard said the governor is legally off base and he remains the official defense attorney for Arizona on SB 1070. He said one statewide official can’t tell another what to do.
“I’m elected,” he said. “I’m accountable to the voters.”
More recently, though, Attorney General Goddard was reported as saying:
“What we need are solutions, not lawsuits. Until we get real solutions, more states will turn to band aid remedies to address this very important issue. It is disappointing to see the federal government choosing to intervene in a state statute instead of working with Arizona to create sustainable solutions to the illegal immigration issue that our state and country so desperately need.”
Interestingly, while the Arizona law was passed on April 13, Congressman Mitchell, only began to become talkative about his state’s immigration law (through a letter sent to the president urging him to not sue Arizona) in late June, when reports came out that the Obama administration would likely file a lawsuit against the state over the immigration law. His most recent thoughts on the Arizona lawsuit were released in a statement from his website:
“I am extremely disappointed that the Obama Administration has decided to file a lawsuit against Arizona to try to overturn our state’s new immigration enforcement law, SB 1070. This is the wrong direction to go. I urged President Obama and his administration against doing so because I strongly believe their time, efforts and resources should be focused on securing our border and fixing our broken immigration system. Arizona needs Washington to take action, but a lawsuit is definitely not the kind of action we need.”
—U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell
The Arizona Democratic strategy to oppose the lawsuit but not support the Arizona immigration law itself is not only paradoxical but also risky. The lawmakers are likely relying on voter fatigue of the issue by November, hoping their constituency only remember these Democrats expressed outrage at the federal lawsuit four months before the mid-term elections, but these Arizona Democrats may only be reminded by voters in November that bandwagon fans need not apply.