Arizona's sweeping new immigration law doesn't even take effect until next month, but lawmakers in nearly 20 other states are already clamoring to follow in its footsteps.
Gubernatorial candidates in Florida and Minnesota are singing the law's praises, as are some lawmakers in other states far from the Mexico border such as Idaho and Nebraska. But states also are watching legal challenges to the new law, and whether boycotts over it will harm Arizona's economy.
The law, to take effect July 29, requires police who have stopped someone for another reason to check their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally. It also makes being an illegal immigrant a state crime. Violators face up to six months in jail and $2,500 in fines.
Lawmakers or candidates in as many as 18 states say they want to push similar measures when their legislative sessions start up again in 2011. Arizona-style legislation may have the best chance of passing in Oklahoma, which in 2007 gave police more power to check the immigration status of people they arrest.
Bills similar to Arizona's law have already been introduced in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Minnesota, South Carolina and Michigan, but none will advance this year.
Business, agriculture and civil-rights groups oppose such legislation, saying legal residents who are Hispanic would be unjustly harassed and that immigration is a federal rather than a state responsibility. Supporters say police will not stop people solely on the basis of skin color and argue that illegal immigrants are draining state coffers by taking jobs, using public services, fueling gang violence and filling prisons.
The debate is putting pressure on Congress and the Obama administration to act.
President Obama has called Arizona's law irresponsible, but Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says it helped prompt him to send 1,200 National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexican border, mostly to her state. She and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., say that's not enough.
McCain says the border needs a force approaching the 6,000 soldiers sent by President Bush until 2008.
In Florida, Arizona's law is a campaign issue in the GOP gubernatorial primary, with Rick Scott trumpeting its merits and Attorney General Bill McCollum saying he backs the law but that it's not needed in his state. Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer called Arizona's bill "a wonderful first step."