Coyote Ugly: Arizona Immigration Debate Rages

Arizona has gotten even hotter as the debate continues to rage over the controversial immigration measure signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last Friday. And the fire has spread to Washington, were the political ramifications of the legislation may be felt in Congress sooner than pundits had predicted.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1070, allows Arizona state police to question people about their immigration status if they have reason to suspect the person is in the country illegally. The governor's decision to sign the bill has sparked a number of protests by Mexican American and civil rights groups, who say the new law will lead to racial profiling and worse.

On Washington Unplugged Wednesday, Michael Gerson, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and CBSNews.com's Stephanie Condon discussed the legislation and its impact on Washington politics. Condon told moderator Bill Plante that Republicans will be in an especially delicate situation when it comes to voicing their support for the bill.

"Republicans have to prove to their base that they are tough on immigration," she noted, "But they risk alienating Hispanic voters."

One prominent Democrat who has come out against the legislation is Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. As Condon noted, he had good reason to do so: Reid is in a tough reelection fight, and he could use the support of the significant Hispanic voting bloc in his state.

Gerson said that the bill represented a political and moral crossroads for many politicians.

"You have to admit that the provocation for the law in Arizona is real, there is chaos on parts of the border," he said. "But the reality is that there is significant possibility for abuse in this law."

The law is on the books in Arizona, though it doesn't go into effect until July; it is already starting to inspire copycat laws in other border states. But Condon says the state laws may eventually be superseded by a Federal mandate.

"A handful of lawmakers in other states are saying they want to adopt similar laws to the one in Arizona," she told Plante. "Congress will have to address it somehow sooner or later."

Also on Unplugged Wednesday: A discussion of the sport of golf with Mark Woodward, CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and Rafael Barajas, head of the Hacienda Golf Course. The two are in Washington hoping to change the perception of golf as an elitist sport.

Watch Washington Unplugged above.

"Washington Unplugged," CBSNews.com's exclusive daily politics Webshow, appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.

  • Evan Schwartz

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