For the last year, 52-year-old Lynn Brannon of Milton has been calling for stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
As a member of the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, Brannon has researched measures enacted in other states that she believes could be adopted in Delaware. And as a member of the tea party, she seeks out like-minded politicians in the hopes of forcing action concerning the estimated 12 million people who are in the country illegally.
She is part of a groundswell this spring and summer that catapulted immigration into one of the most hotly debated election issues. In the spring, Arizona passed a controversial law that gave local police the power to question a person's immigration status, resulting in fears -- particularly among Hispanics -- that civil rights would be violated. The legislation also pitted the federal government, which claims custody over immigration, against states that complain they are paying for millions of undocumented immigrants who use their services.
Then, quietly and almost as suddenly, it fell off the radar. A federal lawsuit called the Arizona law into question. Then, more of the public's attention turned to the economy, which continues to flounder with an unemployment rate of 9.6 percent nationally and 8.4 percent in Delaware. There also has been a "sharp decline" in the number of illegal immigrants entering the country in the past two years, according to a study issued last month by the Pew Hispanic Center.
The 8 percent reduction in the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. was the the first significant drop in 20 years. Brannon, a mother of two, doesn't expect to see much change in immigration policy -- even if her candidates make it to Congress during the midterm elections.
She also doesn't expect calls by Delaware's four congressional candidates for stronger border security to be heard. Brannon and others believe that if more tea party-backed Republicans are elected, it will result in political gridlock as they come up against more moderate members of Congress. At best, they expect both sides to spend the next two years shoring up their arguments and preparing for a 2012 presidential showdown.
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