CORRECTED – Arizona law reignites California immigration fight

* California Latinos fear tough Arizona law a precedent

* Democrats, Republicans agree — Washington should act

* California is top state for Latinos, illegal immigrants
(Corrects details of Arizona law)

By Peter Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO, April 30 (BestGrowthStock) – A few weeks ago,
California Latinos had little to fight for. Now they’ve got
something to fight against — Arizona’s illegal immigrant law.

The tough law next door in Arizona is sending protesters to
the streets, while emboldening conservatives who feel illegal
immigration has gone too far.

Both wonder if California may be next to crack down, a
powerful political question in an election year where the
governor’s seat is up for grabs and Democratic U.S. Senator
Barbara Boxer is facing her toughest re-election fight.

It is also a major social question in California, which has
more people than any other U.S. state, as well as the largest
number of Latinos. More than a third of the population is
Hispanic and a quarter of the country’s 10.8 million illegal
immigrants are here, many working in restaurants, agriculture
and construction.

California’s undocumented immigrants have seen some doors
close to them as employers fear they will be fined for hiring
illegal labor. But many thrive, own homes and send their
children to school with little fear of deportation.

Police in Arizona will now be required to determine if
people are in the country illegally if there is “reasonable
suspicion” that is the case. Critics see a recipe for racism.

“It seems to be a wake-up call for lots of people who
weren’t planning to get involved this time around,” said Jose
Rodriguez, director of El Concilio community center in
agricultural Stockton, California, referring to elections.

A few weeks ago young Latinos were apathetic, focused only
on jobs. Now a big group see risks for themselves.

“It is a large number of young people, those under 30, who
speak English but realize that it doesn’t matter that they
speak English. It has to do with the color of their skin,”
Rodriguez said.

California could copy the Arizona law, said Letzule Campos,
26, who has lived 13 years illegally in the United States and
says the state depends on people like her.

“An American isn’t going to clean the floors,” Campos said
in Spanish. She said she would join a May Day march on Saturday
to urge President Barack Obama to act on immigration reform.

Conservatives are excited as well. Although California has
a reputation as a liberal state, California banned gay marriage
in 2008, and illegal immigration is a big concern especially in
border counties.

‘FANTASTIC STARTING POINT’

The Arizona law is “a fantastic starting point,” U.S.
Representative Duncan Hunter told a rally the day after the
signing of the Arizona law.

The Republican from San Diego County did not stop there,
adding “Would I support the deportation of natural-born U.S.
citizens who are the kids of illegal aliens? I would have to,
yes,” he said. An aide said Hunter meant that children of
illegal immigrants who are U.S. citizens should be kept with
their deported parents.

It is still unclear how big of a role the immigration issue
will play in the November elections and many politicians say
Californians, like citizens in many states, are focused on the
economy and the lack of jobs in the nascent recovery.

The front-runners in the governor’s race have not made
immigration a top priority. Despite fundamental differences on
the issue, both Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman
say the federal government needs to act.

Local politicians are stirring things up, though.

San Francisco and Los Angeles are both considering
boycotting Arizona and Janice Hahn, the Los Angeles
councilwoman behind the boycott move, is running for lieutenant
governor and sees immigration “absolutely” motivating voters.

The issue could become a big one if either side gambles
that it will turn on their base and thereby turn off
independents, said Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute
of Politics at the University of Southern California.

Marches across the state on Saturday will show whether
Latinos are energized. The standard will be the rallies in
March 2006, when some 500,000 people took over downtown Los
Angeles to oppose a tough federal bill that later failed.

“If I have time, I will march,” said Jose Serda, a
60-year-old janitor who is here illegally.

His conflict? He has to work.

Investment Analysis
(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Tim
Gaynor in Phoenix; editing by Mary Milliken and Mohammad
Zargham)

CORRECTED – Arizona law reignites California immigration fight