Last week, Colorado state Sen. Kent Lambert (R) introduced an Arizona copycat immigration bill. Last night, in an interview with CNN’s John King, Lambert defended his proposed legislation and denied that the GOP will face any substantial political implications for being the party behind the vicious anti-immigrant legislation that is being proposed throughout the nation:
KING: Senator, do you worry at all about the long-term prospects for the Republican Party? The political implications of this? I understand you stand by your law on principle. You believe it’s the right thing to do, but your state now has a 21 percent, 20.3 percent of Colorado’s population is Latino. You know the demographic growth. Not just in your state, but across the United States. Do you have any concerns, it’s essentially the Karl Rove question on immigration, that you will do generational damage to the Republican Party by pushing these proposals?
LAMBERT: Well, again, I think that’s really naive. We’ve seen the polling in Arizona, where Arizona 1070 was passed. It was passed on a wide bipartisan basis. The people, the Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Hispanic, more than 50 percent of them all support Arizona bill 1070. Also, Jan Brewer, the governor, won by a landslide after signing that legislation. So the people of the United States want this law.
Certainly, I think the man on the street in Colorado wants to see, first of all, enforcement of our borders. Second, we want to enforce the current laws that we have on the books. Right now the federal government’s not doing that, and it’s time for the states, as many states are doing right now, take on the responsibility that they have for enforcing the law.
Lambert may think it’s naive, but not all of his Republican colleagues agree. It is naive to assume that the 2011 Inaugural Conference of the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network wasn’t in part an attempt by some Republicans to improve their party’s image amongst Latinos after the highly charged debate that Arizona’s immigration law sparked last year. Alfonso Aguilar, a conference participant and the executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, told NPR: “Latinos are inherently conservative: They’re socially conservative; they are entrepreneurial; they’re pro-business. Immigration…is that one issue that prevents us from winning the support of Latino voters.” Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) proclaimed, “it would be incredibly stupid over the long haul to ignore the burgeoning Hispanic vote.”
Lambert seems to be ignoring the fact that an overwhelming majority of Latinos oppose laws like SB-1070, and, as the years pass by, it’s increasingly likely that the “man on the street in Colorado” is going to be Latino. Half of the U.S.’ population growth has been driven by the Latino population. 15.5 million Latinos are U.S. citizens who are currently too young to vote and many Latinos are legal immigrants who may one day become naturalized citizens.
The likelihood of Lambert’s law passing is still unclear. Unlike Arizona’s law it allows (rather than requires) local law enforcement officers to arrest someone if they have probable cause the person is an undocumented immigrant. Don Christensen, director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, has said that Colorado sheriffs don’t want to enforce federal immigration law and cherish discretion when deciding whether to make an arrest.
Meanwhile, back in November, prominent Colorado Republican Steve Schuck slammed Lambert’s plan to introduce an Arizona-style immigration bill in his state. “Making headlines by coming out of the chute with an immigration bill as our initial, signature effort appears to evidence some serious tone deafness,” wrote Schucklan. “[E]verything, absolutely everything, should be subordinated to rebuilding the economy and we repubs should own the issue.”