I remarked at a panel discussion last night that I couldn’t believe Arizona would walk into the same trap we saw here in California with Prop 187, when a draconian immigration measure basically completely severed tied between the Republican Party and the Hispanic community and turned a purple state deep blue. Now, the President is speaking out against the Arizona law, and making clear that he would use federal resources to step in if need be.

This is pretty big: Obama just now sharply condemned the controversial anti-illegal immigration effort in Arizona, calling it “misguided” and “irresponsible” — and even said his administration could insert itself into the fight if civil rights are found to be violated [...]

“Our failure to act responsibly at the Federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others,” Obama said. “That includes for example the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

Obama added that his administration could join the fight. “I’ve instructed members of my admininstration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation,” he said, adding that it was “misguided.”

If in fact, the Congress starts to move the immigration reform bill faster than expected, I would imagine that the Arizona bill, which could be signed by Gov. Jan Brewer as early as today, would take up the space that the Anthem Blue Cross rate hikes did in the health care debate, or the SEC civil suit against Goldman Sachs is taking up in the Wall Street reform debate. They are a perfect foil to the goals of the policy – to take the undocumented populations out of the shadows, to institute a humane policy instead of a police state, to provide for enforcement of employers as well as a path to citizenship for those who want to provide a better life for them and their families and contribute to society.

I think it’s wonderful that the President is forcing a national conversation about the propriety of civil liberties-depriving laws like we’re seeing in Arizona. It’s good policy and good politics. I’ll take his side of the debate over the “You can spot an undocumented immigrant by their shoes” side any time.

UPDATE: Video: