That political clout is evident today, with city councils from Oakland to San Diego condemning the Arizona law and 50,000 people demonstrating in Los Angeles on May 1 in support of immigrants. On Wednesday, Los Angeles became the nation’s largest city to boycott Arizona over the law, when the City Council voted 13-1 for sanctions that could include canceling some $8 million in contracts.

The New Mexico Legislature is 44 percent Hispanic, followed by California at 23 percent, Texas at 20 percent and Arizona at 16 percent, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Angelica Salas, who came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico as a girl and later obtained legal status, noted that Los Angeles is filled with families with members in the country both legally and illegally.

“In the end it’s political suicide if you launch an attack on the undocumented,” said Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “You’re basically attacking the very electorate that you want to get you into office.”