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Meet the New Class of Anti-immigrant Governors

As John Nichols points out at The Nation, the midterms didn’t just bring us a rightward shift in Congress, but also in statehouses across the country. And with conditions shaping up for gridlock on immigration reform inside the Beltway, the states are going to be more important on that front.

Suzy Khimm at Mother Jones did a roundup of gubernatorial candidates with strong anti-immigrant views before the election. While some of the most zealous anti-immigrant candidates were voted down last week (read: Tom Tancredo), a considerable number have taken or resumed office, and there’s a renewed promise of immigration laws that take Arizona’s lead in mandating police officers to detain anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. Here’s a summary:

Nathan Deal, Georgia

Nathan Deal

A pre-election report [PDF] from the immigrant advocacy group Immigration Works USA identified Georgia as one of the most likely to pass an SB 1070 copycat law.

During his tenure as a House Rep, Deal voted on increased border security, and against expanding temporary visas for skilled immigrants. He received perfect approval scores from anti-immigration groups FAIR, USBC, and Numbers USA.

He’s also not a fan of the 14th amendment—during his campaign, he included the cost of educating U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants in his estimate for how much illegal immigration is costing Georgia taxpayers.

Deal has been outspoken about favoring an Arizona-style law, and has support with the state legislature to push for one by January.

Rick Scott, Florida

Rick Scott

Source: Flickr / ScottForFlorida

Scott wants an SB 1070-style law, but will face resistance within the state house. As the Miami Herald reports that Scott wants an Arizona-style law.

"If we choose to go this direction, we're going to create a Florida-style plan that works for Florida," he said to the reporter. "Arizona's a different state."

Unfortunately, that might just mean that Florida is more comfortable with outright racial profiling. They have a bill in the works, with Scott’s backing, that’s a lot like SB 1070, just with less ambiguity about who it’s aimed at

Brian Sandoval, Nevada

Brian Sandoval

Source: Flickr / Hekerui

Sandoval, Martinez, and Haley are part of a contingent that the Washington Post has dubbed the “Rubio Republicans”—politicians with immigrant parents and anti-immigrant policy positions.

Sandoval has gotten in hot water recently for saying he’s not worried about an SB 1070-style law affecting his family, since his kids don’t look Hispanic.

Though he supports SB 1070, there’s strong opposition from Nevada’s tourist industry leaders to pass or implement such a measure.

Dave Heineman, Nebraska

Dave Heineman

Heineman, who was re-elected as Nebraska's governor, has made pushing for an Arizona-style immigration law a major fixture of his campaign for reelection.

The New York Timesprofiled him during the campaign for making immigration a major political issue in his state, seemingly out of nowhere—he even made the bold prediction that every state will see an Arizona-style law introduced early next year.

He already moved legislation to block undocumented immigrants from accessing any social services during his current term as governor.

Terry Branstad, Iowa

Terry Branstad

Source: Flickr / IowaPolitics.com

At one point during his bid for governor, Branstad spoke in favor for overturning Plyler vs. Doe, the Supreme Court decision that guarantees all K-12 children access to public education regardless of immigration status. But then he backed down, and took a lot of flak for it on conservative talk radio.

He’s voiced his support for SB 1070-like policies, in particular that people stopped for traffic violations should have to prove their citizenship status.

Haley Barbour, Mississippi

Haley Barbour

Immigration Works rated Mississippi as one of the most likely states to pass a copycat law. Though Barbour has generally been a pro-immigrant voice within the GOP, he’s been in favor of SB 1070 since it first drew national attention.

Nikki Haley, South Carolina

South Carolina also made Immigration Works’ list of top potential SB 1070 copycat states. According to their report, there’s strong public support for this kind of bill, and Haley has made it a major part of her campaign, as well. The main potential deterrent, according to Immigration Works, would be opposition from business interests who want to remain internationally competitive.

Nikki Haley

A campaign video she made sums up the Rubio Republican frame of mind: "My parents are immigrants, they came here legally, they put in the time, they put in the money, [and] they did what they were supposed to. It makes them mad when they see illegal immigrants come into this state.”

Unfortunately the list of anti-immigrant governors doesn't end there. Other governors who’ve expressed support for SB 1070-style laws include Scott Walker from Wisconsin and Mary Fallin from Oklahoma. Alabama’s Robert Bentley is a strong advocate of the 287(g) program, a precursor to SB 1070.

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