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Without a Washington Fix, Immigration Debate Spirals in Dangerous Direction

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 Latinos Feel Under Siege, Utah’s Immigrant Hit List Shows Why

Washington, DC – New polling of Latino voters under siege, along with news of a “hit list” with the names of Latinos, accused of being undocumented by anonymous anti-immigrant sources in Utah, show that the immigration debate continues to spiral in a dangerous direction and the federal government must intervene. 

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Washington needs to step up and fix the broken immigration system soon, so that rogue elements and irresponsible politicians cannot continue to drive the debate with witch hunts and demagoguery.  The Obama Administration took the important first step to challenge Arizona’s anti-Latino immigration law, but much more needs to be done to stand up to vigilantism and hate that tramples on civil rights and community safety.”

New polling of Latino voters conducted by LatinoMetrics for the Hispanic Federation and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), shows that immigration is now tied with the economy as the most important issue to Latinos, a dramatic surge fueled by fallout over the Arizona “papers, please” anti-immigration law.  Additionally, both U.S. born and foreign-born Latino citizens are massively in favor of a comprehensive fix to the immigration system and motivated to vote this election cycle.  As Brent Wilkes, LULAC’s Executive Director said in a statement about his organization’s polling, “The fact that immigration reform is now a higher priority for Latinos than the economy and education demonstrates that Latinos have taken offense to the way immigrants have been demonized by politicians and political interest groups and are prepared to vote accordingly.”

Finally, and most disturbingly, the poll shows that Arizona’s SB1070 law has already had a real impact on Latinos’ level of comfort with law enforcement.  Polling of Latinos conducted for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund and to be released next week finds that, “Latinos are feeling less optimistic and more under siege,” according to Arturo Vargas, NALEO’s Executive Director.

This widespread sentiment among Latinos seems justified in light of disturbing news from Utah.  The Orwellian-named Concerned Citizens of the United States released a list to media outlets and law enforcement agencies naming 1,300 Latino Utah residents they accuse of being “illegal immigrants,” and said they would be “listening and watching” to make sure those individuals on the list are deported.  As the New York Times recapped, “each entry contains details about the individuals listed — from their address and telephone number to their date of birth and, in the case of pregnant women, their due dates,” and the group “urged immediate deportation proceedings against the people listed, as well as publication of their names by the news media.”  No wonder Latinos feel under siege—they are. 

Meanwhile, proving that nothing sells in a Republican primary these days like red meat on illegal immigration, nine state Attorneys General – each of them Republican – signed onto an amicus brief supporting Arizona’s SB1070 immigration law.  The brief was organized by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who is running for the Republican gubernatorial primary in a crowded field of five.

According to Sharry, “The Republican embrace of Arizona’s immigration law, the escalating tactics of anti-immigrant groups, and the failure of Washington to enact comprehensive immigration reform has fed a climate that is getting increasingly ugly and dangerous.  Until responsible leaders grab the wheel and steer this debate towards a workable solution, irresponsible actors will continue recklessly drive the nation into a ditch.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.