Obama slams anti-immigrant push in Arizona

OBAMA SLAMS ANTI-IMMIGRANT PUSH IN ARIZONA…. Arizona’s state legislature this week passed an odious anti-immigrant bill, which is now likely to become law. The proposal, among other things, makes it a crime to lack proper immigration paperwork in the state, and “requires police officers, if they form a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that someone is an illegal immigrant, to determine the person’s immigration status.” Arizonans would be eligible for arrest if an officer thinks they might be an illegal immigrant and can’t prove otherwise.

National leaders don’t usually weigh in on state measures, but given the scope and the seriousness of the Arizona plan, President Obama sharply criticized the bill today.

Such legislation could “threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans,” the president said during a naturalization ceremony for members of the United States Armed Services. […]

Obama said Thursday that he has asked members of his administration to “closely monitor” the situation.

He warned that failure to act at a federal level to pass comprehensive immigration reform would only open the floodgates to irresponsible and overreaching measures on the state level, referring directly to “efforts in Arizona.”

Having the president shine a light on this raises the issue to a whole new level. With talk of a renewed push on immigration reform at the federal level heating up, Greg Sargent summarized the larger political dynamic nicely: “By moving forward, Dems risk exacerbating the anger of the Tea Party brigade and alienating white swing voters, but they also energize a key portion of their base. The move also forces Republicans to choose between angering the Tea Partiers and alienating Latinos.”

This makes plenty of Republicans nervous. Democrats are well aware of this.

As for Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has not yet said whether she’ll approve of the bill, but she’ll have to decide by tomorrow whether to sign it, veto it, or allow it to become law without her signature. Brewer is, however, facing a tough GOP primary, which makes it more likely she’ll sign the anti-immigrant measure to satisfy the demands of the party’s far-right base.

What’s more, criticism from President Obama might mean even more pressure on Brewer — does she risk looking like she backed down in the face of White House pressure?

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.