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  1. #1
    Senior Member FedUpinFarmersBranch's Avatar
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    May 2008

    Illegal immigration may shape Tennessee elections

    Illegal immigration may shape Tennessee elections
    Updated: 7/6/2010 6:27:41 AM Posted: 7/6/2010 5:39:30 AM

    By Chas Sisk

    Illegal immigration is emerging as one of the key issues in this year's state elections, with Tennessee Republicans planning to make the topic a pillar of their program to sweep state legislative and Congressional elections.

    State GOP leaders say illegal immigration - along with the economy and criticism of the Democratic health-care reform plan in Washington - will be one of their main areas of focus in the fall, even in races for the state legislature, which historically has made few attempts to set immigration policy.

    The plan means that Tennessee will continue to be among the battleground states nationally in the continuing debate over immigration, despite what experts say is an apparently declining immigrant population here. Though nationwide in scope, the issue appears to resonate particularly deeply with Tennesseans, thrusting the state to the forefront of the debate alongside Arizona, California, Florida and other states that have far larger illegal immigrant populations.

    "There is something going on here that is not immediately apparent," said Gary Gerstle, a history professor at Vanderbilt University who tracks public sentiment on immigration.

    Republicans say they are responding to voter outrage over the issue and to actions that have emboldened states to take up the matter, such as a new law in Arizona that lets police detain suspected illegal immigrants on trespassing charges.

    Democrats say the strategy is simply a political maneuver that will not lead to policies that reduce illegal immigration. Nonetheless, they are moving to defuse the issue before it can be raised in November.

    Just last week, President Barack Obama delivered a speech in which he asked Republicans to work with Democrats on an immigration bill. A few days earlier, Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen signed a law that requires local police to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest, despite calls from immigration and civil rights groups that he veto the measure.

    Bredesen said he signed the measure in part because he wanted to discourage politicians from continuing to make immigration a campaign issue.

    "We've got to get beyond making political footballs out of that," he said. "I guess you could do it (veto the measure) as a symbolic act, but if you do so, you're just throwing gasoline on the fire."

    Issue appeals to voters

    A seemingly tough stance on illegal immigration is likely to appeal to tea party voters and other conservatives who have pushed aside business groups to become the dominant voice in the Republican Party over the last two years, outside observers said.

    "This has become a big values issue for the party, with the emphasis being on that they're (illegal immigrants) breaking the law and people that break the law don't deserve the benefits of being in this country," Gerstle said. "The political energy on immigration has shifted from the liberals to conservatives."

    Upholding immigration laws will be the central theme of the Republicans' message to voters, said Rep. Glen Casada, the chairman of the House Republican Caucus.

    "It will be an important issue for us because it's an important issue for the voters," Casada said, citing research he said has been done within his district. "When the federal government doesn't act, states are sovereign."
    Strategy has risks

    The strategy still has risks. GOP candidates already have the edge in state and federal races, and leaders may hurt the party over the long haul if they take too aggressive a stance on immigration, these observers said.

    "Republicans are really making a mistake on this one," said John Vile, a political scientist at Middle Tennessee State University. "Hispanics are now the largest ethnic group in the United States. They've already lost African-Americans. Do they want to lose them, as well?"

    Latino groups will be watching the debate carefully, said Yuri Cunza, president and chief executive of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

    "It may be good to actually deal with it," he said. "It needs to be in the spirit of collaboration ... as opposed to being something to be exploited."

    Population levels off

    Tennessee's population of illegal immigrants stood at about 150,000 people in early 2008, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. By comparison, North Carolina had more than twice as many illegal immigrants and Georgia had three times more.

    Illegal immigration also appears to have leveled off in Tennessee. After nearly tripling between 2000 and 2005, the state added only 10,000 illegal immigrants from 2005 to 2008, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

    A separate study from the Department of Homeland Security found that the national illegal immigrant population began to recede in 2008, shrinking by about 850,000 people amid a sluggish economy.

    Immigration issues have popped up some in the primaries, most notably in the race to represent the 6th Congressional district in Congress. In that race, state Sens. Jim Tracy and Diane Black have sparred over the status-check bill signed last week by Bredesen.

    But illegal immigration is likely to heat up more in the general elections, when Republicans also will make illegal immigration a major part of their pitch for seats in the state legislature. This year the issue will be tied in with other Republican priorities, such as opposing health-care reform and asserting state sovereignty.

    Democrats plan to punch back by attacking Republicans' credentials on the issue, said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville.

    "They're going to try to attack us on hot-button issues, but when it comes down to the meat-and-potato issues - putting food on the table for Tennessee families - they're not going to do anything."


    Year | Population estimate
    2008: 150,000
    2005: 140,000
    2000: 50,000
    1990: 10,000
    Source: Pew Hispanic Center ... ovider=rss
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  2. #2
    Senior Member immigration2009's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    Deport all illegal aliens


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