Arizona immigration policy sets off polarizing debate

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks about the impact of the immigration debate on this fall's elections.

By Alan Gomez, USA TODAY

City workers in San Francisco and St. Paul can no longer take business trips to Arizona. A professor who helped write Arizona's new immigration law says his phone hasn't stopped ringing. The White House is planning a strategy to combat the new law even as legislators in other states propose copycat bills.

With a stroke of her pen, Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer not only signed into law the toughest immigration law in the country, she also reignited a polarizing debate. Protesters held dozens of marches in Los Angeles, New York and other cities Saturday to cap a chaotic week.

And with congressional elections six months away, the Arizona law has put the contentious vocabulary of "amnesty" for illegal immigrants vs. "securing our borders" back on center stage. . .

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said Democrats are fanning the flames of immigration to rally Hispanic voters in a year when polls show Republicans could whittle down Democratic majorities in Congress.

"It's potentially to their advantage if they're careful with it and aren't tarred by the idea of amnesty," he said.

Nowhere is the effect more apparent than in the campaigns of Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

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