While the economy obviously remains the most important issue in American politics, another issue, immigration, refuses to fade away. Opponents of illegal immigration have continued their fight in the legal and legislative arena.
Arizona's Republicans, who previously led the fight by passing a bill that would mandate police to verify whether a suspect was in the United States legally, are again in the forefront. The Obama administration obtained a court order staying the Arizona law on the grounds that immigration was a federal responsibility.
Now the state of Arizona is countersuing the federal government claiming that Arizona has sustained huge costs given the federal government's failure to enforce the immigration laws. Arizona is demanding in excess of $760 million. The popularity of the Arizona law among conservatives is demonstrated by the nearly $3.7 million in contributions that have poured in for its legal defense. Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer, who coasted to reelection in 2010-based on her support for the law, said "We did not want this fight, we did not start this fight… But now that we are in it, Arizona will not rest until our border is secure."
Arizona's Republicans opened another front by proposing a bill requiring hospitals to check whether the patient is in the country illegally. If it is routine treatment, verification will take place prior to treatment; if an emergency, the questioning will wait until the patient is out of danger. Liberals are of course aghast, claiming that the law will deter immigrants from seeking healthcare. Doctors also resent being turned into law enforcement agents. Republicans retort that the hospitals are piling up expenses by treating patients who are in the United States illegally and there is no need to apologize for enforcing the law.
Other states are following in Arizona's footsteps. Republicans in Indiana, now that they control the state House of Representatives, expect to pass a law requiring cops to ask for proof of immigration status if they have arrested someone on an unrelated issue such as a traffic violation. This is expected to create a political hot potato for the state's Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, who bases his claim to the conservative mantle on economic issues, but has so far steered clear of the social minefield. If the bill passes, he will have to sign or veto it.
Utah's veteran Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, claiming that he does not expect any action from Congress, is therefore proposing a law that would secure the country's borders and begin the deportation of illegal immigrants. Hatch said that this bill is a necessary counterweight to the Obama administration's immigration policy, which Hatch accuses of leading to mass amnesty for illegals.
Not all the initiatives come from the anti-immigrant direction. In liberal Oregon, a bill was introduced that would allow students who are not legal immigrants to attend state colleges and pay the much lower in-state tuition. They needed to prove 3 years of attendance and graduation from an Oregon high school as well as active pursuit of naturalization.