The Republican Party's front-runner for governor, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, threw his support Thursday behind a tough new immigration law in Arizona that he criticized as "far out" just two weeks ago.
The law makes it a crime for immigrants not to carry legal papers and gives local police the power to question people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.
Passed in a capitol 1,600 miles away from Tallahassee, the law is nevertheless emerging as a campaign issue in Florida as candidates jockey for the conservative voters who dominate Republican primaries.
By coming out in favor of the law, McCollum joined U.S. Senate contender Marco Rubio in abandoning his previous opposition to the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the nation. Both have said they changed positions in light of amendments that aimed to outlaw ethnic and racial profiling by the police.
"I support Arizona's law as amended, and if the federal government fails to secure our borders and solve the problem of illegal immigration, I would support a similar law for Florida," McCollum said in a statement Thursday.
But the amendments didn't change a single vote in the Arizona Legislature or quash a mounting backlash from Hispanic and religious groups. On Thursday, a group of Arizona religious leaders made an "emergency" lobbying trip to Washington, The Associated Press reported, while the city of Los Angeles joined about a dozen other municipalities in declaring a boycott of the state of Arizona.
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