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Immigration Hardliner Governors Likely in Many States

Suzy Khimm has a good piece at Mother Jones today on the crop of immigration hardliners who are favored to take over as governors of Georgia, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, South Carolina and Nebraska. For immigration reform advocates, the future looks bleak: Congress is unlikely to tackle immigration reform, meaning more states will take on enforcement measures on their own. Lawmakers in a number of states have discussed copycat legislation to Arizona’s SB 1070, and many Republican candidates for governor have also jumped on the pro-enforcement wagon.

But how likely is it these would-be governors would actually enact Arizona-style immigration laws? It varies from state to state. Georgia and South Carolina were on the “danger list” in a report from a pro-immigration group Immigration Works USA earlier this week on which states are most likely to be the next Arizona. Both Georgia governor candidates have said they would mimic Arizona’s law, and the likely winner, Republican Rep. Nathan Deal, has pushed for a number of extreme anti-illegal immigration positions. His efforts against birthright citizenship, among others, earned him an A+ from NumbersUSA, a pro-enforcement group that grades politicians on immigration toughness.

South Carolina Republican nominee Nikki Haley also supports an Arizona-style law, although NumbersUSA picked her primary opponent as the “true reformer” on immigration.

Colorado, where third-party candidate Tom Tancredo is leading in the polls for governor, was on the “maybe” list for passing a copycat law to SB 1070, as was Nebraska. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) is favored to win re-election and has predicted Arizona-style laws in every state within the next year. But both states might lack support for immigration enforcement bills in their legislatures, according to Immigration Works USA.

On the less likely list: Nevada, where Khimm notes Republican candidate Brian Sandoval has shifted right on immigration. When a state lawmaker announced a plan to create an Arizona-style bill in the state earlier this year, though, business leaders came out strongly against the effort, arguing it would hurt tourism. Two industry groups successfully killed the idea this summer.

New Mexico did not make the Immigration Works USA list of states likely to pass immigration enforcement legislation. While Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez has criticized the “sanctuary” policies of her opponent and promised to repeal immigrant-friendly state laws, she may face opposition in the legislature. New Mexico is one of the more pro-immigrant states, with Latinos making up 45 percent of the population, and might not let go easily of laws that allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses that supporters claim are needed for public safety.

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