Immigration issue is factor in governor's race

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on April 29, 2010 at 8:17 PM

DALLAS — With anger building over the new illegal immigration law in Arizona, organizers for Saturday's Mega March in Dallas demanding reform think they will attract 100,000 people.

The protest is also attracting attention in the Texas governor's race.

The marchers who will spread through downtown Dallas want to spread the word to Texas political candidates who might back a law similar to Arizona's.

Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders spoke out on the issue at a news conference on Thursday.

Pastor Lynn Godsey leads a group of Hispanic evangelicals, Espranza Para America. “We will not support any candidate that would want to implement such a law here in the state of Texas."

But that's not stopping State Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Houston). She says she'll file a bill in January that would give Texas law enforcement officers the power to check immigration status, and doesn't care much for its critics.

"I'm also tired of hyphenated Americans," Riddle said. "We are either Americans, or we're not."

Republicans like Riddle can be a problem for Gov. Rick Perry, who wants to satisfy his conservative base — but who is also out to win Hispanic votes. He won about one-third of their support in 2006.

Perry on Thursday disagreed with Riddle, stating the Arizona law would not be the “right direction” for Texas.

The campaign of Perry's opponent, Democrat Bill White, won't take a position on the Arizona law, but said it didn't think Riddle's bill stands a chance in the Texas legislature.

Neither White nor Perry want to upset Hispanic voters — especially Perry, according to SMU political science professor, Cal Jillson. "To the extent that it becomes a public controversy it will help Bill White and hurt Rick Perry," Jillson said. "But both of them know that, so Rick Perry will try to keep it off the agenda here in Texas."

Tens of thousands are expected to march in downtown Dallas on Saturday. The scary thing for politicians is if more of them start voting.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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