Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is a happy woman. The ruling yesterday is a political Godsend for the governor and the state's slate of staunchly anti-immigrant Republican candidates. The rationale behind the drafting, passing, and signing of S.B. 1070 was that the Federal government was not doing its part in regulating immigration, so Arizonans had to take matters into their own hands. This has been a strong rallying cry. The lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice together with the injunction ruling of S.B. 1070 is perceived as meddling, adding insult to injury.
Arizona has always been the ugly border step-child, sandwiched between California and Texas. The Golden and Lone Star states were given early Federal resources to address illegal immigration and provide greater border enforcement. This increased enforcement had the effect of squeezing the bulk of immigrant crossings into the Arizona desert. Additionally, Arizona has never had the booming economy of its neighbors, but has had the misfortune of being one of the hardest hit states during the current recession and housing bubble. Finally, the escalating border drug wars and related crimes are spilling more and more into Arizona.
At its core, Arizona's immigration bill is about frustration. The means to the end of immigration reform can be debated, but the common denominator among those for and against the bill is the frustration at the inaction of the Federal government. Throughout Arizona as throughout the nation, public opinion is on the side of state action. For S.B. 1070 supporters the discrepancy in the court's opinion and general public opinion will only serve to highlight the out-of-touch nature of the federal government. If the decision is in fact appealed and ends up in the 9th Circuit Court, one of the most liberal courts in the nation, then the gulf will widen and further stoke the fires of public opinion.
Arizona holds one of the latest primaries, August 24. Coming a month before the primary election, conservative Republicans will be able to use the court's decision to mobilize voters using the claim of Federal government inaction. Going anti-immigrant is the in-thing with Arizona Republicans. For the last six months candidates have been besting each other in a game of Quien es Mas Anti-Immigrant.
It is no coincidence that Jan Brewer shot up from third to an untouchable first place within days of signing S.B. 1070. Senator John McCain is trying to keep his head above water and getting as tough on immigration as he can to keep ultra-conservative and anti-immigrant warrior J.D. Hayworth at bay. It is even getting heated in the Corporation Commissioner race, where Barry Wong has called for denying undocumented immigrants public utilities.
Looking ahead to the general election in November, the conservative Republicans coming out of the primary will have an added boost. Public opinion among Independents and moderate Democrats is already partial to S.B. 1070. Conservative Republican candidates will be able to court otherwise unsympathetic voters as a result of the shared frustration of federal government neglect and niggling.
Arizona's anti-immigration legislation has tapped into a host of feelings. With the signing of S.B. 1070 Governor Brewer has harnessed those feelings and with the injunction she will crystallize them. Governor Brewer's job security is absolute for the foreseeable future.