Senate Democrats are making plans to force a floor vote on legislation that would invalidate Arizona’s controversial immigration statute if the Supreme Court upholds the law this summer.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) will announce the fallback legislation at a hearing on the Arizona law Tuesday, a day before the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in a suit to determine whether Arizona had the authority to enact the 2010 state crackdown.
The legislation would have little chance of passing in a stalemated Senate or being approved by a GOP-held House, but it would allow Democrats to push their electoral advantage with Latino voters just as the presidential campaign heats up in July.
The plan is to allow Democrats a route to express displeasure with the Arizona law if the court allows it to stand, and it would force Republicans to take a clear position on the law during the height of the presidential campaign. The immigration law is deeply unpopular with Latino voters, who could be key to the outcome of the presidential and Senate races in several Western states.
Schumer said he believes the court will side with the federal government. But if it does not, he will propose a new law requiring federal approval for new state immigration laws, essentially blocking implementation of Arizona’s law and others like it that have passed elsewhere.
The legislation would also bar states from imposing their own penalties, beyond federal sanctions, for employers who hire illegal immigrants. Some business leaders have said they are concerned new state rules on hiring could lead to a patchwork of conflicting employment rules across the country.
A congressional debate on the issue would probably force Romney to take a more definitive position on Arizona’s statute and the broader issue of the proper balance of state and federal power in immigration enforcement.
At the same time, Republicans would surely cite the proposed legislation as another example of Democratic attempts to expand the federal government and squash state power.