In the weeks before she signed Arizona's tough new immigration law, Gov. Jan Brewer's office was inundated with letters, e-mails, faxes and phone calls, with more than 90 percent urging her to veto the legislation.
But since she signed the bill on April 23, the tide has turned. Now, more than 2/3 of the calls and letters she is receiving are from supporters.
"I am writing to congratulate you on signing the law giving police officers the right to question people about their immigration status if they suspect someone is in the country illegally," wrote retiree Ann Hardy of Seekonk, Ma., a small town outside Providence, R.I.
"GOOD FOR ARIZONA! It's about time that someone had the guts to do something!"
Brewer's Office of Constituent Services handles the governor's mail and calls, and has tallied more than 117,000 contacts since the law began working its way through the Legislature early this year. That's the most of any issue in years, staffers say.
The 63,100 contacts the office tallied before Brewer acted contained only about 6,000 letters or calls in support, said constituent services Director Lupe Lerma. The totals may contain some duplicates because some people call or write more than once, so Lerma could only provide the raw numbers.
An Associated Press reporter reviewed several hundred of the letters last week. The contacts included letters from groups like the National Council of La Raza and Reform Immigration for America that had hundreds of online signatures. Many were missives from business owners or citizens.
Many of the messages sent before the law's signing echoed the words written by Nina Thurmes of Scottsdale.
"Please don't sign this terrible legislation into law," Thurmes wrote. "I'm for convicting criminals (legal or illegal) but this law will certainly target the Hispanic population at a higher rate. There are SO many other priorities than arresting and deporting hard working people. As a Latina, card carrying Republican, the party of Lincoln, this legislation imposes the view of a few into the execution of law enforcement."
But with national attention focused on the state, the mix changed once the governor signed the bill.
Brewer's office has received more than 54,000 letters, calls and e-mails since she acted, and 67 percent support her action.
The sweeping legislation makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It would also require local police officers to question people about their immigration status during other lawful police contactsif there is reason to suspect they are illegally. The law goes into effect on July 29 unless federal court challenges filed by several groups are successful.
President Barack Obama has said he believed the measure could violate people's civil rights and he has instructed the Justice Department to see if it is legal. A team of top federal prosecutors met with Arizona's attorney general and the governor's staff on Friday, signaling the adminstration is prepared to go to court to block the law.
They asked a series of questions, hoping to elicit information from state officials regarding the administration's concerns over the new law. The federal officials' trip to Phoenix also was an effort to see if the two sides can find common ground in the debate, which has re-ignited immigration as a major political issue nationwide.
National polls have shown strong support for the new Arizona law. A survey done early this month by the Pew Research Center shows 59 percent of Americans approved of the law and only 32 percent disapproved. Other polls showed similar or greater support.
A spokeswoman for Brewer said she was well aware of the support her office is fielding and was not surprised her action was drawing support.
Many letters reaching the governor after she signed the bill into law echoed those of Hardy, a retiree who lives in the home she was born in 76 years ago and says she votes independent.
"I just said 'Good!' when I heard that the governor had signed that law," she said in a telephone interview with The AP. "I said 'Good, Good, Good;' finally somebody's doing something because the federal government has done nothing."
Hardy said she was fed up with how illegal immigrants are getting into the country and "taking advantage of all our facilities and not working towards becoming a citizen."
"I don't mind immigrants, my dad and mom were immigrants and all my neighbors fathers' and mothers' were, but they came in the right way," Hardy said. "If they're here, get a visa or get your papers and then work towards becoming a citizen, I have nothing against that. It's just, they think they can walk right in, and it's not right. We have laws right now on the books, don't we, that we should be able to enforce?"