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Demonstrations on Immigration Harden a Divide

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  • Ram Lau
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/17/us/17arizona.html Demonstrations on Immigration Harden a Divide By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., April 14 — Al
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 17, 2006
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      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/17/us/17arizona.html
      Demonstrations on Immigration Harden a Divide
      By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

      SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., April 14 — Al and Diane Kitlica have not paid close
      attention to the immigration debate in Congress. But when more than
      100,000 mostly Hispanic demonstrators marched through Phoenix this
      week, the Kitlicas noticed.

      "I was outraged," Ms. Kitlica told J. D. Hayworth, the Republican who
      is her congressman, as she and her husband stopped him for 20 minutes
      while he was on a walk through their suburban neighborhood to complain
      to him about the issue.

      "You want to stay here and get an education, get benefits, and you
      still want to say 'Viva Mexico'? It was a slap in the face," Ms.
      Kitlica said, adding that illegal immigrants were straining the Mesa
      public school where she teaches.

      A few miles west, Gus Martinez, a Mexican immigrant who was
      moonlighting at a hot dog stand after a day installing drywall, said
      the protests had changed his perspective, too.

      Mr. Martinez, who said he was a legal immigrant, said he also
      supported border security to curb illegal entry. But he had taken the
      day off to march earlier in the week because he believed that the foes
      of illegal immigration were taking aim at Hispanics as a group. The
      demonstrations, he said, had instilled in him a sense of power.

      "It showed that our hands — Latino hands — make a difference in this
      country," Mr. Martinez said. "They see you are Hispanic and call you a
      criminal, but we are not."

      As lawmakers set aside the debate on immigration legislation for their
      spring recess, the protests by millions around the nation have
      escalated the policy debate into a much broader battle over the status
      of the country's 11 million illegal immigrants. While the marches have
      galvanized Hispanic voters, they have also energized those who support
      a crackdown on illegal immigration.

      "The size and magnitude of the demonstrations had some kind of
      backfire effect," said John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster who said
      he was working for 26 House members and seven senators seeking
      re-election. "The Republicans that are tough on immigration are doing
      well right now."

      Mr. Hayworth said, "I see an incredible backlash." He has become one
      of the House's most vocal opponents of illegal immigration and is one
      of dozens of Republicans who have vowed to block the temporary-worker
      measure that stalled in the Senate.

      The Kitlicas, who had been unaware of his views, decided to volunteer
      for his campaign. Mr. Hayworth, who has been singled out by Democrats
      in his bid for re-election, faces a challenge from a popular former
      Democratic mayor of Tempe, Harry E. Mitchell.

      The immigration issue is cropping up in areas as far from the border
      as Iowa and Nebraska. In one House district in Iowa, Republican
      primary candidates are running television commercials competing over
      who is "toughest" on illegal immigration, said Amy Walters, an analyst
      with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

      Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican from another district,
      said his office had been flooded with angry calls about the recent
      marches. "It is one thing to see an abstract number of 12 million
      illegal immigrants," Mr. King said. "It is another thing to see more
      than a million marching through the streets demanding benefits as if
      it were a birthright." He added, "I think people resent that."

      But Mr. King, who supported a House bill to restrict illegal
      immigrants without creating a guest-worker program, said he was also
      feeling new heat from the thousands of Hispanics in his district, many
      of whom worked in its meatpacking plants. Responding to a survey by
      his office, some Hispanics called him a racist for asking questions
      about building a wall with Mexico, or suggested a wall with Canada, he
      said.

      The emotions around the issue are especially intense in Arizona, where
      thousands of illegal immigrants cross the border each month and more
      than a quarter of the population is Hispanic. In 2004, Hispanics
      accounted for about one in eight voters.

      When voters approved a ballot measure that year to block access to
      state services for illegal immigrants, more than 40 percent of
      Hispanic voters supported it, according to some surveys of people
      leaving polling places.

      But many Hispanics said opinions had changed dramatically in the past
      few weeks, partly because of the hostility they perceived in some
      proposals from Mr. Hayworth and other conservatives.

      "When people are talking about shooting people who come across the
      border," said Harry Garewal, chief executive of the Arizona Hispanic
      Chamber of Commerce, "yeah, I think that causes some angst."

      Leo Hernandez, assistant publisher of Prensa Hispana, a major Arizona
      Spanish-language newspaper, said the demonstrations had also played a
      role. "The Latino people in Arizona are more united," Mr. Hernandez
      said. "They are no more afraid; they go out into the streets."

      In Scottsdale, where many employees are Hispanic but few residents
      are, some voters said the workplace absences on the day of the marches
      highlighted the importance of immigrant labor.

      "If you don't get the Hispanics here working in this town, you don't
      have cooks in the back, you don't have people building houses," said
      Bruce Weinstein, an executive eating breakfast at a restaurant.

      Many others, however, expressed alarm about the marches, saying the
      demonstrations could have been a chance to round up and deport illegal
      immigrants.

      "They should all be ejected out of the country," said Andrew Chenot, a
      construction worker, who added, "They are in my country and they are
      on my job, and they are driving down wages."

      Others here, like the Kitlicas, said the marches had only sharpened
      their worries that illegal immigrants from Mexico brought with them
      crime, financial burdens, national security risks, cultural
      disintegration and even diseases like drug-resistant tuberculosis —
      concerns echoed often by conservative talk radio hosts in the state.

      Representative Hayworth said such fears were well-founded. "We have
      indicted felons from other societies on the loose here," he said. "You
      see the exponential rise of drug-resistant T.B. and other things. That
      is not indicting an entire culture, but it is pointing out a problem."

      Mr. Hayworth recently published a book, "Whatever It Takes" (Regnery
      Publishing, 2006), in which he advocates enlisting agencies like the
      Internal Revenue Service to find illegal immigrants; arresting and
      deporting them all; deploying military troops on the southern border;
      and temporarily suspending legal immigration from Mexico.

      His opponent, Mr. Mitchell, calls those ideas "unrealistic."

      Randy Graf, a former Republican state legislator, is campaigning on
      the same border-security themes as Mr. Hayworth in his bid to succeed
      Representative Jim Kolbe, a Republican and a supporter of a
      temporary-worker program who is not running again.

      Mr. Graf challenged Mr. Kolbe in the primary two years ago over the
      immigration issue and won 40 percent of the vote, putting him in a
      strong position against two more moderate Republicans in the primary.

      Mike Hellon, one of the more moderate candidates in the current
      primary, said: "The marches have hardened positions on both sides.
      People who really want the border closed — who want to put troops down
      there — are more passionate than ever, and the other side is more
      sympathetic." He added, "It does escalate the risk factor for a
      moderate like me."

      Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who supports a
      temporary-worker program that would allow illegal immigrants a path to
      citizenship, said that House conservatives like Mr. Hayworth remained
      a major obstacle to such legislation. "That is the oil in the water,"
      Mr. Grijalva said.

      But with the Hispanic electorate set to swell as the children of
      immigrants come of age, Mr. Grijalva said that history was on the
      other side.

      "You might be getting a momentary bump," he said, "but in the long run
      you are going to lose."
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