California’s illegal immigration fight is back, and so are the political pitfalls for Republicans

California's illegal immigration fight is back, and so are the political pitfalls for Republicans
President Trump hosts a roundtable on California’s “sanctuary” law with some of the state’s Republican officials and law enforcement on Wednesday. The law is already a key part of GOP campaigns in the state. (Olivier Douliery / EPA)

Few topics have been as incendiary in California as illegal immigration, with intense arguments about whether those who cross borders are a reminder of the American dream or a sign of its demise.

Those past debates — most visible during elections in 1994 and 2010 — may offer some insight into the issue’s political rewards and risks.

For starters, neither effort sprang from measurable public anger. In 1993, a Los Angeles Times poll found only 2% of voters surveyed cited immigration as the state’s top problem. Jobs and the economy were more pressing, they said.

In late 1993, then-Gov. Pete Wilson said that “our state is facing a crisis in illegal immigration.” In the spring of 2010, GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner warned of “the strain” the issue was causing. Both men ultimately built campaigns around an effort to deny government services based on citizenship.

Fast forward…

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