DOJ suit against Arizona energizes supporters of immigration law

Liz Goodwin
anti illegal immigration
anti illegal immigration

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has raked in nearly $700,000 to pay for the legal defense of the state's anti-illegal-immigration statute as of this morning, according to her press officer, Tasya Peterson.  Most of that money, Peterson notes,  poured in within 48 hours of the Obama administration filing a legal challenge to the law it called unconstitutional and divisive.

Brewer wrote on her Facebook page that the legal-defense fund had raised $163,000 on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., about the time that the Department of Justice announced its suit against the state. Most of the upsurge in donations since has come from small gifts spread out around the country, according to an analysis of the contributions provided to Yahoo! News by the governor's press office.

The analysis is from Thursday morning, and breaks down the then-current fund total of $443,000. More than 4,000 of the 9,000 individual contributions were for $20 or less. Only 200 donations exceeded $100, with the largest single gift at $2,000. Arizona, Texas, California, and Florida supplied the greatest volume of individual donations.

A new Gallup poll confirms what the wave of donations seems to suggest — that many Americans support Arizona's law and do not think the Department of Justice should have challenged it. Half of all respondents oppose the lawsuit, while 56 percent of independents — crucial to both Democrats and Republicans in upcoming midterm elections — oppose the suit. Earlier polls have shown a majority of Americans support Arizona's law.

So apart from the the constitutional issues at stake in the federal challenge to the Arizona law, mounting the case in the midst of a difficult campaign season poses serious political challenges for Democrats. President Obama's vocal opposition to the law may have helped galvanize Hispanic supporters, who  proved crucial to his win in 2008, even though his White House has failed to make good on his campaign promise to deliver comprehensive immigration reform.

But the Gallup results suggest that in courting stronger Hispanic support, Democrats could well alienate independents — another crucial constituency that broke for Obama in 2008  and could be a decisive factor in November's midterms. And as another Gallup poll showed earlier this week, Obama and the Democrats have already begun losing significant ground among independents.