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Politico: 'Nobody Wins' on Immigration Reform

Author: Jonathan Martin
April 26, 2010

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Arizona's new immigration law may force both Democrats and Republicans into a no-win situation for a tough election year.

The Arizona Legislature's passage of a new hard-line anti-immigration law may force both Democrats and Republicans into a place they don't want to be: dealing with the contentious, no-win issue of immigration reform in the midst of an election year.

The Arizona bill - passed on a party-line vote by the state's Republican legislators and signed into law by the Republican governor - has come under intense fire from President Barack Obama and other Democrats in Washington.

But the polarizing issue is fraught with peril for both parties - so much so that, when asked about the politics of it all, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie paraphrases the words of Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: "When immigration is an issue, nobody wins."

Immigration reform advocates say that, without a comprehensive bill from Congress, other states will feel free to follow Arizona's lead in passing what they consider to be discriminatory, "racial profiling" legislation.

But for Democrats to pass immigration reform before November, party leaders would have to force members from conservative-leaning districts to cast yet another tough vote that could raise the ire of swing voters. But Republicans face longer-term peril - if they continue to push aggressive legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants, Hispanic voters are likely to continue their exodus to the Democratic Party.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham - one of the few Republicans willing to remain supportive of legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants - said his colleagues have cooled on the issue as they've come to understand the political costs.

"More and more Republicans are coming to grips with the idea that if we don't solve this problem, we can never be a national player," Graham said in an interview.

But he was quick to warn that Democrats would do nothing but incite conservative passions if they try to pass an immigration reform bill this year with little bipartisan support.

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