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Whistling Past Immigration in Dixie

by Pili Tobar on 03/14/2012 at 1:08pm

alabama primaryAs was true in other conservative states this year, exit polls from the Alabama and Mississippi primaries yesterday show that the Republican electorate is not all riled up about the immigration issue.  Few Alabama and Missisippi primary voters declared immigration to be their priority issue, while recent polling from Fox News Latino/Latin Insights continues to highlight the problem all leading GOP candidates face with Latino voters–their anti-immigrant, anti-Latino stances. 

Also, the leading backer of Alabama’s “show me your papers” anti-immigrant law was unable to use his notoriety to win in his primary, just like former Arizona state senator Russell Pearce was unable to win in a historic recall election by relying on his anti-immigration bona fides.  As Tom Tancredo also proved before them, relying on the illegal immigration wedge issue to carry you to victory is a losing strategy.    

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice said:

Remind me the benefits of the Alabama approach to immigration again?  Based on yesterday’s primary results, it clearly doesn’t provide political rewards to its leading backers.  Meanwhile, it shreds Alabama’s efforts to move past its intolerant reputation from the civil rights era and has a massive and detrimental impact on the state’s economic bottom line.  For national Republican observers, the Alabama example is another reminder that illegal immigration is not a key issue for even the most conservative of voters within the most conservative of states.  Instead, the issue only serves as motivating and defining issue for Latino voters across the nation.

Among the key developments and takeaways from Alabama and Mississippi:

  • The Leading Architect of Alabama’s HB56 “Show Me Your Papers” Law Loses in GOP Primary…to a Congressman Under Federal Investigation:  One of the leading sponsors of Alabama’s HB56 anti-immigration law, Alabama State Senator Scott Beason has been one of the most vociferous of the law’s backers.  In yesterday’s Republican primary for a congressional seat, despite facing an incumbent under federal investigation over potential insider trading and despite receiving the support of the Texas-based super PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability, Beason was nonetheless overwhelmingly defeated by U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL).  As the Associated Press reported, Rep. Bachus “was receiving about three-fifths of the vote, with more than 80 percent of precincts reporting.  His closest competitor was state Sen. Scott Beason, who got about one-fourth of the vote.  Beason gained nationwide attention for sponsoring Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation law against illegal immigration.”

  • Romney & GOP Contenders Remain Silent on Alabama Law, As Kris Kobach Shares Distorted View of Reality:  Despite campaigning in the state with the most Draconian anti-immigrant law in the nation, the Republican field was mostly quiet on the issue of immigration in Alabama, perhaps in light of increased recognition of the damage anti-immigrant politicking is doing to their Party’s general election chances and mindful of the ongoing damage the law is wreaking to Alabama’s reputation and economy (see above).  However, as Huffington Post Latino Voices highlighted, Romney immigration advisor Kris Kobach – the leading architect of Alabama’s approach – apparently is living in a different reality, in which the general reaction to Alabama’s law has been positivity.  Said Kobach to NPR, “Alabama’s reputation has also increased around the country” as a result of their anti-immigrant law.  

Frank Sharry summed it up:

Those desperate to appeal to the 3% of Republicans mobilized by immigration should clearly follow Kobach’s advice – we’ve seen all the good it has done for Alabama.

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