SAN DIEGO — New Mexico's governor says it is a step backward. Texas isn't touching it. And California? Never again.
Arizona's sweeping new law empowering police to question and arrest anyone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally is finding little support in the other states along the Mexican border.
Among the reasons given: California, New Mexico and Texas have long-established, politically powerful Hispanic communities; they have deeper cultural ties to Mexico that influence their attitudes toward immigrants; and they have little appetite for a polarizing battle over immigration like one that played out in California in the 1990s.
But perhaps the biggest reason of all is that the illegal flow of people across the border is seen as a more acute problem, and a more dangerous one, in Arizona.
In the 1990s, the U.S. government added fences, stadium lights and more agents to the border in Southern California and Texas, forcing a shift in the flow of illegal immigrants that has now turned Arizona into the single biggest gateway for people sneaking into the country from Mexico. The influx has led to a sharp increase in kidnappings, home invasions and other violence tied to drug and human smuggling.
"The flow has moved east, and the debate has moved east as well," said Dan Schnur, director of the University of Southern California's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.
Arizona's population of illegal immigrants has increased fivefold since 1990 to around 500,000. The Tucson region replaced San Diego as the top place for Border Patrol arrests in 1998 and accounts for nearly half the total. And Phoenix has been dubbed the kidnapping capital of the U.S., with an average of one abduction per day in recent years.
Strategists on both sides of the debate expect Arizona's law to resonate most in states far from the border where illegal immigration is relatively new.