The Supreme Court decision Monday upholding the "show me your papers" provision of Arizona's controversial immigration law could have an unintended effect -- firing up Latino voters and immigrant advocacy groups who make up a key part of President Obama's base, political observers say.
''In a very cynical way, it's the best of all worlds for Obama," Michael Yaki, the former San Francisco supervisor who sits on the United States Commission on Civil Rights, said Monday. "It takes away a position that (Mitt) Romney has been bandying -- that laws like this are constitutional."
Yaki said justices unanimously left in place a provision of Arizona's SB1070 that particularly rankles Latino voters, who are considered critical to both presidential candidates: the clause that allows police to check the immigration papers of people it suspects are undocumented.
That, coupled with Obama's executive order on deportation earlier this month "is a one-two punch" for Republican attempts to woo Latino voters, Yaki said, referring to Obama's order, which allows undocumented immigrants under age 30 to apply for a two-year stay from deportation if they have attended high school or college and have no criminal record. "It's not good news for them in swing states like Nevada and Colorado," Yaki said.
''To Latino voters this is a very personal issue," Matt Barreto, associate professor of political science at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Latino Decisions polling firm, said Monday.
His firm found that in swing states, the issue may carry resonance with Latinos: In Nevada, the pollsters found that 74 percent of Latino voters say they know an undocumented immigrant, and in Arizona, 68 percent said the same thing. The poll found that 30 percent of Latino registered voters say they know of a person or family who has faced detention or deportation for immigration reasons.
Advocacy groups say Latinos are deeply interested in the candidates' specific views on the issue.
''I think the Supreme Court decision will mobilize people," said Diana Tellefson Torres, executive director of the UFW Foundation. "What Latinos want is clarity, and one of the things we're seeing is that Mitt Romney is not being clear."
Romney, traveling in Arizona on Monday, said the high court should have given states "more latitude" on immigration enforcement. He said Obama has "failed to provide any leadership" on the issue.
Obama applauded the court's decision to strike most of the law but added that he was "concerned" about the papers provision. "No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like," he said, calling for Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform.
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