Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Backs Off Support For Arizona-Style Immigration Law

Even though he once supported the idea of having a Wisconsin version of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) said this week that he hopes state legislators avoid passing a harmful state immigration measure this year:

“I think that would be a huge distraction for us in the state,” he said. “There’s our niche and our priorities. I don’t think that falls into one of those priorities, so I would certainly hope that the legislature didn’t spend time focusing on that, instead focused on the economy.”

Walker declined, however, to say whether he would veto an immigration bill.

“I’d push to make sure it wouldn’t come up,” he said.

Two years ago as a gubernatorial candidate, Walker said he would sign a version of Arizona’s SB 1070, which aimed to make the state so hostile to undocumented immigrants that they self-deport. “The federal government has failed to secure the border, and states have a right to protect their law-abiding, legal citizens,” Walker said in a May 2010 statement. “The 10th Amendment gives states the right to act as Arizona has with the immigration law.”

But after a Supreme Court ruling struck down much of Arizona’s law and mass deportation policies have harmed state economies, Walker has backed away from his previous statements.

Walker is also one of several Republicans backing away from anti-immigrant measures after Latino voters, who strongly oppose the laws, overwhelmingly backed President Obama in November’s election. Six percent of Wisconsin’s population is Latino, but that number is growing nationally. Even conservative radio host Sean Hannity said he had “evolved” on immigration after the election. “It’s simple to me to fix it,” Hannity said. “I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here — you don’t say you’ve got to go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on.”