How much of a signature issue has illegal immigration become in a cycle that supposedly focused on nothing but the economy? The new law in Arizona has entered into the politics of the governor’s race … in California. GOP hopeful Steve Poizner has a new ad in the final days before the June primary in the Golden State hammering opponent Meg Whitman for her public stance against Arizona’s SB 1070. Poizner wonders whether California needs a governor who has the same opinion about the Arizona measure as Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon:

That’s a bit harsh, although technically accurate. The longer video from which Poizner takes his Whitman quote does show the former eBay CEO explicitly opposing the bill, but insisting that she supports enforcement and an “economic fence”:

But doesn’t “securing the border” include enforcing the law? Unless Whitman plans on rolling tanks up and down the joint border with Mexico, which would arguably be an even bigger intrusion on federal responsibilities, “enforcement” has to include checking the status of people detained by the police for other purposes when they are suspected of not being in the country legally. Which, by the way, is how California’s penal code reads now.  As Kerry Picket noted a week ago, Section 834b of the Penal Code puts California law enforcement in exactly the same position as their Arizona brethren:

(a) Every law enforcement agency in California shall fully cooperate with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service regarding any person who is arrested if he or she is suspected of being present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws. (b) With respect to any such person who is arrested, and suspected of being present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws, every law enforcement agency shall do the following: (1) Attempt to verify the legal status of such person as a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident, an alien lawfully admitted for a temporary period of time or as an alien who is present in the United States in violation of immigration laws. The verification process may include, but shall not be limited to, questioning the person regarding his or her date and place of birth, and entry into the United States, and demanding documentation to indicate his or her legal status. (2) Notify the person of his or her apparent status as an alien who is present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws and inform him or her that, apart from any criminal justice proceedings, he or she must either obtain legal status or leave the United States. (3) Notify the Attorney General of California and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service of the apparent illegal status and provide any additional information that may be requested by any other public entity. (c) Any legislative, administrative, or other action by a city, county, or other legally authorized local governmental entity with jurisdictional boundaries, or by a law enforcement agency, to prevent or limit the cooperation required by subdivision (a) is expressly prohibited.

Does Whitman propose a repeal of 834b, or an executive order not to enforce it?