The timing of the federal government’s lawsuit over Arizona’s immigration law has raised the question if the Obama administration is so concerned about the mid-term elections in November, that the White House and their allies on the Hill are willing to frighten their Hispanic base to get them out to the polls in what expects to be a lackluster turnout for Democrats this year. Western Democratic governors have already cited their concerns to Obama administration officials regarding the adverse effects of the lawsuit on state races.
“I think the bottom line is, when I look at some of those western states, they are replete with Hispanic voters and Hispanic voters are upset that we haven’t had any success on immigration reform, so as far as I’m concerned, trying to do something on immigration reform gins up a base that is largely Democratic versus a pursuit of others who aren’t necessarily Democratic,” said Senator Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, during an interview with me on Monday night.
While Mr. Menendez dismisses any idea that the administration is using the immigration issue to politicize anything, he did say, “At the end of the day, it just seems to me that…first of all it’s not an issue that won’t be handled before the election and secondly, I think there are many opportunities to enhance the vote this November if there’s a true belief we’re going to get to immigration reform.”
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democrat, is confident that the government’s case against Arizona will be successful. At the National Governors Conference in Boston this past weekend, he told me, “I think it will be successful.. It should be successful, but I think what’s equally important is the injunction that prevents the law from being implemented.”
The idea of sanctuary cities, though, where city ordinances can keep a local law enforcement officer from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status and reporting the person to federal immigration authorities still remains a hazy area for Democrats.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was stumped by a reporter asking about the issue regarding sanctuary cities when at a briefing recently.
While Governor Richardson will throw the issue back on to the last Bush administration saying, “The Obama administration like the Bush administration looked at situations… that apprehensions and deportations had taken place. There’s no basic change in policy,” Mr. . Menendez insists that existence of sanctuary cities is not a crime. :
“The reality is it is not the obligation of law enforcement officers who are local law enforcement to go ahead and report that status. That is an optional choice. So the bottom line is I’m for going ahead and making sure that criminal elements are ultimately get deported, and that’s been a major focus of this administration—sweeping jails and other entities of criminal elements, but asking everybody what their immigration status is, because they happen to look a certain way is fundamentally wrong its unconstitutional and I believe it is un-American. “
However, Governor Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Republican, told me he believes in the “elimination” of sanctuary cities:
“I’ve done a number of things to try and crack down on illegal immigration in Minnesota. One of them was to call for the elimination of sanctuary cities. Unfortunately, my Democratically controlled legislature wouldn’t pass that initiative. It’s something I support….getting rid of sanctuary cities. I think it’s a preposterous rule to have cities to be able to pass an ordinance or a law that prohibits law enforcement from inquiring on immigration status on proper circumstances.”