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Republican governors-elect may up the chances for Arizona-style laws on immigration

Lawmakers from at least 25 states have pledged to pass copycat laws to Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law. There are a number of reasons these plans might not succeed — other legislators might want to focus on economic concerns, or might be deterred by the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Arizona — but Republican victories at the state level mean Arizona-style legislation is all the more likely in other states. At least 10 governorships flipped Republican on Tuesday, including states such as New Mexico where the governors-elect campaigned on promises to crack down on illegal immigration, and a number of other governorships remained in the hands of Republicans.

Our sister site, The Florida Independent, reports that Republicans in Florida will now have a veto-proof majority in both the state House and Senate, plus a vocal supporter of tough immigration laws in the form of Governor-elect Rick Scott (R):

Scott has allies in the legislature. State Rep. Willliam Snyder, R-Stuart, already announced a drafted immigration bill that mimics Arizona’s S.B. 1070 and would obligate local law enforcement agencies to inquire about a person’s immigration status during a routine stop. [...]

In July, state Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, and state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, also proposed legislation modeled after Arizona’s S.B. 1070.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, told The Florida Independent in July that he would introduce legislation based on the Arizona law during the 2011 session, and state Rep Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, also supported an Arizona-type law in Florida during his campaign.

“I expect there will be an effort to pass an S.B. 1070-type law and several anti-immigrant bills,” says Jonathan Fried, the director of We Count, a community and workers’ organization located in Homestead. “I would hope sensible members of the Republican Party understand what this would do to the state and their party. In the long term, they would be the anti-Latino party.” [...]

With the small number of Democrats in Tallahassee, Fried says there is little real opposition to an Arizona-style law. “I hope African-American and Latino legislators will step up and oppose this bill,” Fried says.

Republican Nathan Deal’s victory in the Georgia governor’s race puts the state in a similarly likely position to pass anti-illegal immigration legislation next year. Georgia was ranked by a pro-immigration group among the four most likely states to pass copycat SB 1070 laws. In two of the others — Oklahoma, where Mary Fallin (R) won for governor, and South Carolina, where Nikki Haley (R) will take over — Republican candidates for governor won on Tuesday. (The fourth, Mississippi, is led by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.)

In Texas, which was deemed “maybe” likely to pass anti-illegal immigration laws, Republican Gov. Rick Perry won re-election and the GOP won a two-thirds majority in the state House. Rep. Warren Chisum, a conservative Republican, plans to challenge Republican House Speaker Joe Straus for the top position. Chisum told the Houston Chronicle he wants to look at SB 1070-style legislation for Texas:

“We might look at the Arizona law, see how it could fit into Texas law,” he said.

He said the state has to do something since the federal government is not securing the border.

“We have as many undocumented people here in the state as anybody and we need to figure out how to get them documented, those that are working and doing fine and abiding by the law,” Chisum said. “We need a way to have that work force here. … But it needs to be legal, documented, know where they are, paying taxes and abiding by the law.”

New Mexico might also be an interesting case for immigration law, considering its history of immigrant-friendly legislation. Illegal immigrants can receive driver’s licenses and in-state tuition in the state, but Republican Governor-elect Susana Martinez has said she wants to put an end to “sanctuary” policies for undocumented immigrants in the state.

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