While the State of Arizona struggles to enact strict immigration legislation, California, along with 19 other U.S. states, may attempt to pick up the pieces and enact similar laws.
However, the California GOP’s persistence on this issue could spell defeat at the polls.
Twenty one percent of the state’s electorate is Latino, and any push to eliminate illegal immigration in the state would likely encourage them to vote for Democratic or Independent candidates, say some Conservatives in the state.
“Latino voters should be with the Republicans based on the Republican stance on lower taxes, boosting small business, respect for family values – and this initiative does exactly the opposite,” says Matt Klink, a Republican strategist at Cerrell Associates, a political consulting firm in Los Angeles. “It’s a total wedge issue that’s completely unproductive.”
But Conservative sponsors of the California legislation say the cash-strapped state cannot afford those who are here illegally.
“We are spending $51,000 a year for every person that we incarcerate, and roughly one-third of our prisoners are here illegally,” says Republican California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who is sponsoring legislation at the state capital and says he is unafraid of political backlash.
Outside the State Capitol, another Conservative group aims to put the issue in front of voters. The measure’s supporters have started to collect signatures and need only 434,000 before April 21st to appear on the June ballot.
Though such efforts could spur protests similar to those witnessed in Arizona, sponsors insist that efforts to curb illegal immigration represent the views of voters.
“The people in the streets protesting are going to have to answer to the citizens who are paying the bill,” Donnelly said.
A field poll released last summer, during the height of the Arizona immigration debate, shows that Californians feel conflicted about the issue. While 71 percent of those surveyed said they wanted to see more border agents patrolling the U.S.- Mexico border, 80 percent favor a program to allow illegal immigrants who have been living in the country for a number of years to stay and apply for citizenship. About 70 percent want Congress to pass a comprehensive bill.
Waiting for the federal government is the most prudent decision for Conservatives who want to stay in office, remarks Klink, who believes that any kind of hard-line stance on immigration is “a further nail in the coffin for the California Republican Party.”
Lindsay Stewart is a Fox News producer in the Los Angeles bureau.