Will California immigration be the next legal flash point?

A common highway sign visible along the southernmost roads of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Experts predict the California immigration conflict will soon explode as has occurred in Arizona.

Peligro, California. (Photo: Flickr)

The recent Arizona immigration law has been nothing short of controversial, and many experts believe that California immigration will be the next battleground for lawmakers. Reuters reports that Latinos in California – many of them illegal residents, others not – are stepping forward to protest the Arizona law. Liberals consider tougher immigration laws to be a gateway to human rights violations, while conservatives stand fast in their position that illegal immigration has gone too far. Both groups wonder if California will be the next to crack down on illegal immigrants.

California deals with immigration in its backyard

California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, who live in San Francisco, support amnesty and welcome the flow of immigrants. Boxer has gone so far in the media as to say she’d be happy if illegal immigrants became legal via amnesty and came to live in her city. Of course anyone with a sense for Real Estate prices knows that illegal immigrant wages – even if supplemented by a small loan – will never be able to support living in San Francisco. Thus, take Boxer’s open-armed invitation with a grain of margarita salt. Upcoming state elections will certainly have a major bearing on California immigration.

California has the highest population in the U.S., illegal immigrant or otherwise

Because of the large illegal immigrant population, the stakes in California would be tremendously high if California immigration law comes into question. Members of the Latino community who previously avoided political involvement are making their voices heard. Jose Rodriguez of the El Concilio community center in agricultural Stockton, Calif., told Reuters that “It is a large number of young people, those under 30, who speak English but realize that it doesn’t matter that they speak English. It has to do with the color of their skin.”

However, as former G.W. Bush speechwriter David Frum points out, the letter of the Arizona immigration law specifically forbids stopping anyone on the mere basis of skin color. What remains to be seen, George Will argues in the Washington Post, is whether good police officers in Arizona can aid this “worthwhile experiment in federalism” by making properly nuanced judgments regarding immigration law enforcement. If the experiment proves to be successful, California might decide to go in a similar direction.

Conservatives see a changing tide

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from San Diego County, has called the Arizona law “a fantastic starting point,” but it is still unclear whether the upcoming California elections will take immigration as a major point of argument. Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman, the leading candidates in the California governor’s race, agree that the federal government needs to take action.

What it may come down to is whether candidates are too afraid to lose the Latino vote. If Arizona – which is 30 percent Hispanic by some estimates – can get a majority to agree on tough immigration law, will California follow suit? The 2008 census estimate is that 36.6 percent of the state population was of Hispanic or Latino origin, but it’s safe to assume that not all of that minority group will be politically active in the California elections.

(Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/noborder/ / CC BY 2.0)

Related Video:

Other recent posts by bryanh