Weekend open thread: Republican immigration pandering edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

I learned from the Cedar Rapids Gazette that above-average temperatures across Iowa this summer have mitigated flooding somewhat despite heavy rainfall in June and July. Let’s hope for dry weather in the coming week, especially in areas that have flooded recently and of course along the RAGBRAI route.

While RAGBRAI towns will showcase our state’s welcoming side, Iowa Republicans have lately sounded less open to outsiders. I had hoped the worst of the Republican pandering on immigration would pass with the demise of Bob Vander Plaats’ gubernatorial aspirations. But GOP nominee Terry Branstad is now borrowing from the Vander Plaats playbook. Earlier this month, Branstad told supporters at one campaign stop,

   “When people are stopped for a criminal violation or traffic violation, if they cannot show they are here legally, they ought to be detained and turned over to the federal government for deportation,” Branstad said.

   Branstad cautioned, however, that he didn’t want Iowa taxpayers to be left paying the bill for the process.

   “I think the challenge is getting the federal government to fulfill their end of the deal,” Branstad told a group of about 25 people at the Lied Public Library. “I don’t want the local property taxpayers to have to pay for them to be in a county jail for month after month after month. They need to step up and do their part of it.”

Todd Dorman saw this as one sign of a new gubernatorial candidate emerging, “Terry Vander Branstad.” I don’t see any significant shift, because even though Branstad didn’t embrace Arizona’s immigration law during the primary campaign, he was already scoring points with exaggerated claims about undocumented immigrants stealing state benefits. Anyway, it’s nothing new for Branstad to take an incoherent campaign stance on a controversial issue or make promises he can’t back up with any substance.

One of Branstad’s favorite down-ticket Republicans, attorney general candidate Brenna Findley, spoke out about immigration policy during a talk radio appearance this week. Findley’s longtime boss Steve King would be proud, since he is a big fan of the Arizona approach. In fact, this week King joined 80 other U.S. House members in signing a “friend of the court” brief defending the law, which the U.S. Department of Justice has challenged in court.

Findley asserted on June 22,

Arizona passed their law because the federal government didn’t uphold the rule of law and it was hurting states like Arizona. So they had to take their own course of action there. Their murder rate was way up, they were experiencing a crime rate that they hadn’t seen recently and real people were being hurt.

Jason Hancock noted at Iowa Independent that “data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports and Arizona’s Department of Public Safety shows the state’s crime rate is actually down in recent years.” PolitiFact published more details here on Arizona’s declining crime rate. Don’t expect those facts or the federal government’s legal arguments to change Republican minds about immigration policy.

Some conservative strategists are concerned that embracing Arizona’s new law will hurt Republican electoral prospects in 2012, as Latinos are a fast-growing voter bloc in many states Republican presidential candidates need to win. Iowa Republicans probably aren’t worried about alienating Latino voters, because this rapidly growing demographic group is not expected to reach 10 percent of our state’s population until around 2030.

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