From Minnesota to Georgia, Politicians Lend Support to Arizona Immigration Law

Apr. 23: Supporters of the illegal immigration enforcement law rallied at the state Capitol in Phoenix.

Apr. 23: Supporters of the illegal immigration enforcement law rallied at the state Capitol in Phoenix.  (The Arizona Republic via AP)

If it's good enough for the desert, it's good enough for 10,000 lakes. That's what a group in Minnesota is saying as it calls for an Arizona-style crackdown on immigration in the North Star State.

And more than a thousand miles away, in Georgia, a Republican candidate for governor says he's all for it.

Ruthie Hendrycks, president and founder of Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform, says Arizona's new immigration law should be mirrored in Minnesota, where roughly 125,000 illegal immigrants lived as of 2007, according to some estimates.

"This issue of illegal immigration and addressing it is long overdue," Hendrycks told "The situation is out of control, and until the federal government steps up to the plate to enforce our laws, the states have no other choice than to enforce federal law through state law."

Hendrycks, a Republican who will announce her candidacy for state Senate later this week, said she plans to contact Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty regarding her proposal. Hendrycks anticipates widespread support among the state's residents.

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"Although there are voices on both sides of the issue, Minnesotans are not blind to what's happening across the nation and how it is affecting them on a state level," she said. "I believe that the majority of Minnesotans understand the issue and would be in favor of enforcing our laws."

Arizona's law, which allows police to question anyone about their immigration status and to request to see documentation if they suspect they are in the country illegally, has been described as "poorly conceived" by President Obama. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Arizona's former governor, has also been critical of the law, as has Attorney General Eric Holder, who has indicated the federal government may challenge it.

But Hendrycks rejected critics' claims that the law will lead to racial profiling.

"This is not about race, it is about the law," she said. "It comes down to enforcing our law. We are a nation of laws and it's high time that officials at both federal and state levels start enforcing our laws and not reward those who are breaking the laws."

According to Department of Homeland Security figures, Minnesota is not among the top 10 states with unauthorized immigrant populations. California and Texas topped that list last year, with 2.6 million and 1.68 million, respectively. A total of 10.8 million unauthorized immigrants were identified nationwide in January 2009, compared to 11.6 million in January 2008 and 8.5 million in 2000.

Roughly 125,000 illegal immigrants lived in Minnesota as of 2007, according to an estimate by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and in 2005 the estimated cost of illegal immigrants to the state was between $148 and $188 million, a report by Minnesota's Department of Administration estimated.

A spokesman for Pawlenty did not return repeated requests for comment on Wednesday. In January 2008, Pawlenty proposed measures to counter illegal immigration, including a ban on so-called "sanctuary cities" and new penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants, but those proposals languished in the state's Legislature.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, which had 480,000 illegal immigrants last year -- sixth in the nation --Republican candidate for governor Nathan Deal said he supports Arizona's new law and would like to see it in the Peach State.

"As governor of Georgia, I'd work to pass and sign similar legislation," Deal said in a statement released Tuesday. "The new Arizona law is called 'controversial,' but 70 percent of Arizonans approve of it. I think there would be similar support in Georgia for such legislation. Our public services are stretched beyond their limits during these tough economic times, and our open borders result in our states and counties importing poverty. Local taxpayers foot the bill for these significant additional costs."

In Illinois, local activists chanted "Illinois is not Arizona" on Tuesday as they tried to block the deportation of 67 Mexican nationals from a federal deportation center in Broadview, a suburb of Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reported. Two dozen protesters were arrested on disorderly conduct charges as part of a movement energized by the passage of Arizona's law last week.

According to DHS figures, Illinois had the fifth-highest number of unauthorized immigrants among U.S. states in January 2009 with 540,000 immigrants identified -- 440,000 in 2000. 

Despite that 24 percent increase, some activists said the newly passed law in Arizona is a dangerous precedent likely to translate to resentment against Latino immigrants in other parts of the country.

"There is now a racial reign of terror spreading across the country and it has to be stopped," Joshua Hoyt, director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and one of those arrested, told the Chicago Tribune.