Published April 21, 2010
An overwhelming majority of Arizona voters support a controversial bill that would give state officials broad new powers to arrest people suspected of being illegal immigrants, a new poll finds.
The Rasmussen Reports poll found 70 percent of likely voters in Arizona back the bill, which cleared the state Legislature this week and awaits the governor's signature, despite concerns about potential civil rights violations.
The survey found 53 percent of voters are worried that immigrants' civil rights could be infringed in the effort to find and deport illegal immigrants. Forty-six percent were not concerned about that possibility.
But for immigrant-rights activists in Washington and elsewhere, the state bill has become a flashpoint in the national debate.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has led the charge against the bill on Capitol Hill, said Wednesday that he wants the Department of Justice to be prepared to "go immediately to court" to stop Arizona officials from enforcing the law if it is signed.
"There will be many, many people, American citizens, whose rights will be violated when the police come to them for no other reason than to check their immigration status," he told Fox News.
The Arizona bill would create a new misdemeanor crime for failing to have an alien registration document; allow officers to arrest anyone unable to show documents proving their legal residence in the country; and allow people to sue over claims that a government agency is hindering immigration enforcement.
The Rasmussen poll reflected bipartisan support for the bill in Arizona. Eighty-four percent of Republicans support it -- but so do 51 percent of Democrats. Forty-three percent of Democrats oppose it.
The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted last Wednesday. It had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
Gutierrez, while calling on the administration to help water down the Arizona bill, has also stepped up pressure on President Obama to pursue immigration reform.
Asked about the issue, the White House said Wednesday that the president is reaching out to Republican senators and called several of them from Air Force One Tuesday to discuss immigration legislation.
"The president ... is very interested in this," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. "I think it's safe to assume that we're not going to get comprehensive immigration reform legislation through the Senate on a party-line vote, which means you're going to have to have bipartisan support."