New York Times
By Fernanda Santos
March 18, 2016
When Donald J. Trump campaigns in Arizona, he talks up the endorsements he has received from Jan Brewer, the former governor who signed some of the nation’s toughest immigration laws, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose aggressive pursuit of illegal immigrants has prompted discrimination charges by the Justice Department.
When Bernie Sanders campaigned here on Monday, he ceded the stage to a teenage girl, who spoke of her parents’ arrest in a raid by Sheriff Arpaio and the reprieve from deportation they received from the federal government.
And in ads airing across the state this week — his in English, hers in Spanish — Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton deliver opposing messages: Mr. Cruz vows to undo executive actions by President Obama delaying the deportation of certain undocumented immigrants, while Mrs. Clinton promises to stop deporting parents whose children are citizens of the United States.
The presidential race has moved to Arizona — a state at the center of the nation’s battle over immigration — and each side is using the issue to try to woo a deeply divided electorate ahead of Primary Day on Tuesday.
“We’re not just at the center of the immigration discussion,” Tyler Bowyer, chairman of the Republican Party of Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, said in an interview. “The border is our backyard. We live the challenges of immigration every single day.”
Arizona is a state in demographic transition. Latinos are poised to become the majority, and they already account for the largest number of students in public schools. But the state is also a magnet for retirees, and older white residents play an outsize role in elections and tilt the state to the right.
Republicans control every statewide office and both chambers of the Legislature. There are currently several anti-immigration measures under consideration in the Legislature, and on Thursday, people who oppose these measures staged a protest at the office of Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican who has not made his position on the bills known.
In many ways, Arizona’s political battles over immigration predicted the tensions and divisions that are defining the presidential election. Mr. Trump is a prime example, with his promises to build a wall at the border and make Mexico pay for it. The state’s Latino population swelled to 2.5 million last year from 440,000 in 1980, while the share of white residents has steadily declined.
Sheriff Arpaio stepped up raids as conservative legislators pushed bills that imposed heavy sanctions on employers who hire undocumented immigrants and expanded the legal definition of identity theft to include anyone seeking employment without proper documentation.
Then, in 2010, Ms. Brewer signed the “show me your papers” law, which gave the police broad powers to question anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. It fueled national protests and boycotts, but also helped her win a second term, creating two images of Arizona: to some, a synonym for intolerance; to others, an example of how fed-up citizens and elected officials could fight back against illegal immigration.
Representative Ruben Gallego, a Democrat from Phoenix, said in an interview, “Our immigration laws have been a very effective tool to mobilize the right, and it’s once again going to reward a politician who’s going to be preying on people’s anxieties, be it Cruz or Trump.”
Still, profound challenges remain, fueled by geography — the border between Arizona and Mexico runs for about 370 miles — and opportunity. This month, Border Patrol agents arrested a convicted sex offender who had previously been deported as well as a man wanted for murder in Maricopa County as they tried to enter the country illegally.
“People are angry, they’re upset,” Ms. Brewer said in an interview. “The heartache and the loss and the suffering of people who have been harmed by illegal immigrants who come across our border is very real.”
In 2011, the Justice Department accused Sheriff Arpaio of engaging in “unconstitutional policing” by unfairly targeting Latinos and demanding proof of citizenship. Two years later, a federal judge, G. Murray Snow of United States District Court in Phoenix, ruled that he and his deputies had systematically violated the constitutional rights of Latinos by targeting them during raids and traffic stops.
But Mr. Arpaio is unrepentant. He said that of the 8,600 undocumented immigrants his office had turned over to federal immigration authorities after their arrests for felony and misdemeanor crimes in the past two years, 3,000 had returned to county jails. The reason, he said, “is not that they’re all running back across the border, is that the federal government is releasing them back onto our streets.”
Mr. Cruz’s television ad here features Steve Ronnebeck of Mesa, Ariz., whose 21-year-old son, Grant, was killed last year during a robbery at a convenience store. An illegal immigrant with a criminal record who was out on bond awaiting deportation is charged with murder in the case. The ad denounces Mr. Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
“I hope I get to be there the day President Cruz tears up those illegal executive actions instituted by President Obama,” Mr. Ronnebeck says in the ad.
Mrs. Clinton’s TV ad — titled “Valentía,” which in Spanish means “courage” — opens with split-screen images of Mr. Trump and Mr. Arpaio and a narrator declaring, “When it looks like everyone is against you, learn who is your best friend.”
Mr. Trump’s pledge to build a wall continues to be his most popular applause line at his rallies here. By contrast, Mr. Sanders, who spent much of the week traveling the state, accused Sheriff Arpaio of using “un-American and uncivilized law enforcement tactics” against Latinos.
A Merrill poll of likely voters in Arizona conducted this month showed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump tied if they were to face off in the general election, and Mr. Cruz with a six-point advantage over Mrs. Clinton. In a matchup between Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump, Mr. Sanders holds a three-point edge. The poll’s margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.
The only remaining candidate who has not campaigned in Arizona is John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, who nonetheless received the endorsement of the state’s leading newspaper, The Arizona Republic, on Friday.
“In an election year dominated by threats and put-downs,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote of Mr. Kasich, “the most understated candidate is the most competent.”
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