by Jeff Biggers
While notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio entertains the Republican Party convention diehards at a Tampa zoo next week, the real Old West show will have already taken place at the platform committee meetings.
In sheer defiance of the recent US Supreme Court decision against Arizona's controversial SB 1070 immigration law, the Republican Party has adhered to the whims of presidential contender Mitt Romney's extremist immigration adviser Kris Kobach and rammed through a series of Arizona-style immigration planks this week.
Throwing Romney's campaign strategy of capturing 38 percent of the Latino vote to the wind, the Arizonification of the Republican Party's immigration platform appears to be nothing less than a chronicle of an election disaster foretold.
Not that Kobach, the right-wing Kansas secretary of state and architect of SB 1070 seems to care. Kobach attached language that Arizona-style state's rights efforts should be "encouraged, not attacked" into the Party's official policy.
"I think it's an expression of support for Arizona-style laws," Kobach told The Hill on Tuesday. "The platform also encourages states to create laws in this area."
Make that laws in many areas. Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini hailed the Republican platform committee's embrace of Arizona's policy to require all employers to verify the legal residency status of their employees as the "Russell Pearce plank," in homage to the disgraced and recalled former state senator.
In addition, oblivious of plunging immigration rates from Mexico, the Republicans jumped on Arizona's wall to nowhere campaign, calling for the completion of the old double-layer boondoggle of the nearly 700-mile US-Mexico border fence.
As the seemingly fumbling Romney campaign knows well, the margin of electoral victory in several swing states, especially in the West, will most likely hinge on one to three percentage points in the very states where Latino voters are projected to increase by 8.7 percent. Even with Obama's lack of immigration reform and record deportation policy, the President leads Romney 63 to 28 in the most recent polls among Latino voters.
"These type of laws inevitably lead to racial profiling and unnecessarily strain relations between police and local Latino communities," James Ferg-Cadima, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, told the Huffington Post, referring to Arizona's immigration laws. As part of the non-partisan coalition of National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, he added: "From our perspective, any of those proposals are non-starters."
United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta referred to the Republican platform as a "war on immigrants."
Perhaps Romney's and the Republican's embrace of "self-deportation" refers, in fact, to the Republican plans for Latino participation in the Grand Old Party of Arizona.
Or, as Russell Pearce told Tea Party activists in Arizona earlier this spring, in his endorsement of Romney: "His immigration policy is identical to mine. Attrition by enforcement."
Jeff Biggers is the author of The United States of Appalachia, and more recently, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland (The Nation/Basic Books).