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 drugs 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 United States.
The other border states have older, larger and more culturally entrenched and politically connected Hispanic populations.
California and Texas were forced to deal with illegal immigration decades ago. Both states saw surges in the 1980s because of Mexico's shaky economy and the civil wars that wracked Central America. But many who entered illegally became voters under a 1986 federal law that granted amnesty to 2.7 million people.
That political clout is evident today, with city councils from Oakland to San Diego condemning the Arizona law and 50,000 people demonstrating in Los Angeles on May 1 in support of immigrants. On Wednesday, Los Angeles became the nation's largest city to boycott Arizona over the law, when the City Council voted 13-1 for sanctions that could include canceling some $8 million in contracts.
The New Mexico Legislature is 44 percent Hispanic, followed by California at 23 percent, Texas at 20 percent and Arizona at 16 percent, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
Angelica Salas, who came here illegally from Mexico as a girl and later obtained legal status, noted that Los Angeles is filled with families with members in the country both legally and illegally. "In the end it's political suicide if you launch an attack on the undocumented," said Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. "You're basically attacking the very electorate that you want to get you into office."