By McKay Coppins
Critics throughout the country are decrying Arizona’s tough new immigration law as “misguided,” “racist” and just plain “stupid”—but not everyone hates it. A voter poll in Utah published Thursday shows that a whopping 65 percent of Utahans would support their state modeling its immigration laws after Arizona’s. With such strong support, it’s not surprising that a local politician has already pledged to craft a bill and bring it to Utah’s 2011 legislative session.
The Beehive State isn't alone: activists in California are calling on lawmakers to adopt an Arizona-inspired immigration policy, and a state representative in Texas said she will introduce a similar measure to the legislature come January. Utah is unique, however, in that it’s not a border state, and substantial immigration reform was just implemented there less than a year ago.
So why so much support for the law?
For one thing, Utah is about as red a state as they come, and the national immigration debate has been riddled in recent days with Republican tough talk. Conservative pundits like Glenn Beck have praised the new law, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim James drew lots of attention for his campaign commercial in which he stares sternly into the camera and says, “This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it.” The right-wingers that make up so much of Utah’s electorate may just be falling in line with their national counterparts.
Tony Yapias, an immigration activist in Salt Lake City, attributes the poll’s results to a lack of understanding of the law and says it would be detrimental to the Latino community there if Utah followed Arizona’s example. Still, he admits wearily that the law is gaining momentum, even as opposition against it hardens: “There’s no question that other states are on the way there.”