(Reuters) – A U.S. judge’s ruling blocking key parts of Arizona’s immigration law could bolster President Barack Obama’s standing among Hispanics and energize Republican foes who back the tough law.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton weighed in on the festering American debate over illegal immigration that has implications for November 2 congressional elections.
* Obama’s Democrats could get a boost from Hispanics who have been disenchanted with his inability to advance an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system. The Hispanic vote is expected to be increasingly important in the years ahead.
Negotiations between the White House and the congressional leadership have gone nowhere on the potent political issue of immigration and the issue is considered dead for the year.
Both Democrats and Republicans have tried to attract Hispanics to their parties and thus far Democrats have largely won the battle.
But Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics in a recent Gallup poll was at 52 percent, his lowest rating with them after reaching the 60s earlier this year.
* On the flip side, the ruling may well generate further enthusiasm among Republican voters who are already energized ahead of November 2 elections in which Democratic control of the U.S. Congress is at stake.
Republicans have used the Obama administration’s effort to strike the Arizona law as a rallying point. The Republicans’ conservative base is leery of any immigration legislation that could be perceived as granting amnesty to the estimated 10.8 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.
Many Americans who are weary of a 9.5 percent jobless rate back the Arizona law and could be disappointed by the judge’s ruling, which was prompted by a lawsuit filed against Arizona by Obama’s Justice Department.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll this week showed that a majority of the country back the Arizona immigration law — 55 percent of those questioned favored it compared to 40 percent against it.
* Immigration is a volatile issue in Washington. Battle lines are drawn between Democrats, who want a system of documenting illegals to allow them to work in addition to improved border security, and Republicans, who mainly want tougher border enforcement.
Obama has been challenging both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to offer him bipartisan proposal on immigration in recognition that any overhaul would not pass without Republican votes.
Senator John McCain of Arizona is well aware of the potency of the issue. He led efforts to overhaul immigration three years ago and the issue nearly unraveled his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Defeated by Obama in 2008, McCain has been a strong backer of the Arizona law in trying to face down a primary challenge to his re-election from conservative former congressman J.D. Hayworth.
(Editing by Howard Goller)