Arizona Anecdotes

An Ocotillo plant in Arizona.

I arrived at the Phoenix airport around noon in mid-May from a much cooler, rainy Maryland.  The hot, dry front line in America’s uproarious flame war over immigration was surprisingly quiet. The streets were nearly empty– most likely because the locals have enough sense to avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day.

This was the first time I’d flown into Phoenix.  Previously, I’d only passed through the state on a couple of car trips to and from California many years ago. The half-hour light rail ride to Mesa gave me some time to survey the ocher landscape. Arizona’s climate and topography are so different from the Midwest and mid-Atlantic states where I’ve lived most of my life.

The limited water supply and lack of green vegetation would keep me from relocating. But, I reasoned, longtime Arizonans must be acclimated to this rugged place and love the arid zone they call home.  To me, it seemed desolate and impoverished with trailer parks and derelict strip malls lining the main street. Census stats show about 60 percent of the population is Caucasian and 20 percent is Hispanic/Latino, and Phoenix is located in the state’s most densely populated county.

Many residents are seasonal, like my cousin, spending their winters in Arizona retirement communities with thousands of other retirees who want to escape the wintry weather of other regions.  Then there are the approximate eight percent of Arizona residents who are estimated to be in the United States illegally and who are at the center of this growing political firestorm.

Since I had to go to Arizona to help my cousin drive to Ohio,  I thought this would be great chance to get a sense of the people who have chosen to make this state their home.  And I was curious to hear what Arizonans were saying about the  controversial SB1070 immigration legislation.

Getting past the left and right wing talking points was a challenge.  Given the tiny sample of people I talked to and the limited amount of time I spent in the state,  I realize that my commentary is anecdotal and speculative.  Yet my brief visit did give me a lot of material to consider as well as suggest areas for more research and reflection.

The opinions I heard fell along ethnic lines. Caucasian Arizonans supported the legislation and Latino Arizonans were against it.  However, both groups acknowledged that there were problems with the influx of undocumented immigrants and crime from across the Mexican border, and they agreed that Arizona needs to improve its border patrols.

Their ideas about possible solutions to the problem is where they parted ways.  In Arizona and throughout America, immigration has become a broiling issue.

Thousands poured into Phoenix this weekend both to protest and to support the legislation.  People from all corners of the country are calling for boycotts or buycotts. There are several legal challenges to the constitutionality of SB1070 in the court system already, and the law doesn’t go into effect until the end of July.

President Obama ordered 1,200 National Guard troops deployed to the US-Mexico border to help patrol.  Some are calling this a purely political move; others are saying it’s not enough.  Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal for immigration reform; Republican leaders promplty vowed to block any attempt at reform.

According to an April 29 article in the Washington Post, the proposal “…emphasizes first taking steps to limit illegal immigration before offering new rights for those here illegally. But the REPAIR (Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform) proposal, as Democrats dubbed it, also would create a pathway to legal status for an estimated 10.8 million people who are already in the country illegally, an idea opposed by many conservatives.”

Also noted in the  article: Obama called the proposal  “a very important step in the process of fixing out nation’s broken immigration system.”

A cynical question I often remind myself to consider in such situations is, “Who stands to profit?”  Immigration reform seems like an obvious, just and humane solution. If multinational corporations can move their assets around at will, why can’t workers enjoy that same flexibility of location?

If we start to pull on the thread of corporate culpability, I think we will likely unravel the cause and effect of America’s unfolding  immigration crisis.  But as long as we are fighting among ourselves over increasingly scarce resources, we won’t join forces and make systemic changes to the way they do business.

~N. Logsdon Mandelkorn

27 responses to “Arizona Anecdotes

  1. Wonderful post, I like your impressive blog, found you on FP.

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  2. lol a good deal of the answers readers put up make me giggle. On occasion, I speculate whether they in reality learn the clause and studies before leaving their 2 cents or if perhaps they just just skim the issue of the post and jot down the original opinion that drifts into their minds. In any case, it’s truly a delight to browse intelligent comments once in a while as contradicted to the very same, traditional blog vomit that I generally , discover.

  3. Yeah, it’s good, very useful, thanks 🙂

  4. These anecdotes are really inspirational and I really love it…

  5. I have to say, I do have a problem with any kind of law enforcement agency asking me for papers or proof of citizenship when no crime has been committed or there is no reason for police intervention. This is a country founded on freedom and individual liberties and that scenario shows no resemblance to that principle. What if I were out hiking in the Arizona desert and didn’t have this kind of information with me? A border patrol guy can just stop me for no reason and if I can’t provide proof of citizenship, I’m likely to be taken into custody until someone can show said proof? That doesn’t sound like a democratic and free society to me. It may just be a hypothetical but that scenario would be completely possible with this new legislation. Did we learn nothing from the Patriot Act and its stripping of our rights?

    It seems as though little by little our rights to privacy and innocent until proven guilty are getting eroded or taken away completely and we sit back and accept it. We are given this line of crap by the media and paid for politicians and corporations just keep reaping the benefits.

    Kelly

  6. We were recently in Arizona…I am often conflicted about the issue of sharing my given resources with people who do not have a legal “right” to them. I was born in this country and raised in a city with many, many immigrants (legal and illegal). I have had to share my rightful resources with people who didn’t contribute anything. So, I do think there should be better border control, but I do not think hate, racism, and ignorance is the solution.What we encountered in Arizona, was racism and ignorance. We walked into an open house (just for fun) and the Realtor was very uncomfortable with us and didn’t take us seriously. We have a few more incidents (including an expensive speeding ticket for going 3 miles over the limit). I am (Asian) Indian and we have nothing to do with the “illegals” they are targeting. It’s even worse for anyone who look Hispanic, whether they are legal or illegal. Everyone human has a right to be treated fairly. Research “Racism in Arizona” and you will find that it stems from the gubernatorial level and has been going on for years.

    http://clubdinein.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/vacation-in-arizona

  7. Stopping the influx of violent crime across the border should be a serious priority, but the majority of people who cross do so to find work and support their families, and do not commit further crimes. And by the way, crossing the border illegally is a federal misdemeanor, weighted about equally with running a traffic light.

    How we treat people who have been living here peacefully is a separate issue, and is very wrongfully the focus of these laws. Many people have crossed illegally and gone on to build lives here and contribute to our society. SB1070 doesn’t even address border security, it only targets those who have already been here.

    As for concerns about middle eastern people crossing that border, while I’m sure it’s happened (along with every other nationality in the world), it’s important to acknowledge that not a single terrorist attack has been carried out here by somebody who crossed the border illegally. Most have been perpetrated by people who either were born here, were here legally, or entered legally but then outstayed a visa.

    This is scapegoating. There are some very serious problems in Arizona that have caused Brewer to have a serious PR problem. The state is almost broke. They had to sell the capitol building and are now renting it back. They have cut about 40% of the education budget. In the past year, more than two thousand teachers have lost their jobs and the ones who’ve remained have had their salaries cut down significantly. And while people like to point the finger at the “burden” of educating children of undocumented immigrants, the truth is that most of them are paying into the property tax base just as much as any other group in society.

    Brewer’s term is almost up, and there are a lot of very racist, ignorant people in this state. This law was designed to take the anger that people (rightfully) had towards the legislature and turn it towards 8% of the population, who makes up a small minority even of people receiving public assistance.

    As for the debate of whether or not making a group carry papers is racist, how can it not be? They say that they won’t profile by race, but instead by things such as accent, clothing, and music playing in a car. So basically, yes by race.

    If the law says that all people from all walks of life need to have proof of legal status (as is normal in most countries), I would accept that.

  8. The fact is that the economy actually benefits from illegal immigrants. It’s not right, but that is the case. I lived in California for years…. where of course the hispanic population is immense. Illegal and otherwise.

  9. It’s never easy to address a problem left unchecked for as long as illegal immigration has. I think the new law might make it more difficult for law enforcement to do their job because, even if they aren’t profiling, the accusation will be made if the person is any race other than white. If I were faced with the possibility of death with every call I went on, I’d probably tend to look at everyone as guilty too in order to survive. Even with their guard up, death happens.
    Unfortunately, the bill divides the population of AZ and the rest of the country. The boycotts are childish, bullying antics that remind me of a grade school playground. Frankly, the extremes on both sides of the argument frighten me.

    • Janna,
      I’ve read similar comments from police officers. They express real concern and say they feel trapped in the middle as well as endangered by the way this hyperbolic rhetoric is inflaming people on both sides. It feeds irrationality!

      I also agree with your comments about the boycotts and that “the extremes on both sides” are frightening.

      Thanks for your comments.

  10. Loved the plant u took in. Arizona

  11. I appreciate my Mexican friends and neighbors who are family oriented, hard working, and believe in America. My grandparents immigrated from Europe legally. I see nothing wrong with demanding immigration is done through legal means, and these people should not be harassed. However, the police have every legal right to ask for papers since many illegals are from the middle east countries, and are suspect. Many Mexican/South American illegals are selling drugs, and violence follows. I do feel sorry for the legal immigrants having to put up with this mess, because it is personal for them.

    • Charleecreations: I live in a sanctuary city in the Washington DC metro area, and most of my neighbors are Latino. I have no idea who is in the country legally. And we are all affected by the threat of MS13 gang violence and their drug trafficking.

      I agree with you about legal immigration being the answer. Instead of screaming about Arizona, we need to channel our energy into pushing for reform. We have to take our demands to Congress and the Obama Administration.

  12. As an Arizona native (I’m white) I am appalled, but not surprised at this law. Arizona is one of the most racist places I have ever been. Having to PROVE you are a citizen of a country is an aspect of fascism. If you are ‘brown’ and a citizen, and a cop decides you are acting suspicious, ask you for papers that you don’t have, what will happen? Is s/he going to be reasonable, and thoughtful and say ‘oh my mistake. Go on your way.’ No. s/he will haul the brown person off to the county jail, until proof of his citizenship can be produces. I hate to generalize, but cops are like airport workers. They love to exercise the little bit of power they have. They are not reasonable, and they think everyone is guilty.

    I am so glad I left that backward place.

    • excuse the typo. ‘produced’

    • You make some good points, Melanirae. I think that fear and racism are woven into this whole issue in Arizona. I also think that the corporate behind the scene machinations are exploiting these base elements of human nature to their best advantage.

      I can see what you mean about the potential for some cops to use this legislation to feed their need for power. It’s not likely we’ll ever be able to expunge abuse of authority from our police forces.

      But I also want to believe that for the most part, Arizona police officers are trying to do their jobs in dangerous and difficult situations with limited resources. I hate to hear them cast as the “bad guys.”

    • I agree that there are a lot of racist in Ariz and that the cops are likely to overuse the power that law will give them, but I disagree with your statement that having to prove you are a citizen of a country is an aspect of fascism. When travelling overseas you carry a passport to get into countries and in some countries travellers are expected to carry their passport at all times and can be asked by cops (and even hotel clerks) to show it. If you are in a country illegally you shouldn’t expect to not be asked to prove who you are.

      Second point–Nancy, I agree about your corporate involvement issue. Follow the money and in this case it’s cheap wages.

      • Jim,
        Thanks for your comments! Excellent point about everyone having to provide proof of citizenship while in other countries.

        The money motive is definitely what’s driving this. Cheap wages/no benefits/no labor rights are examples of greed on the micro level; enriching the international corporate oligarchy is the macro.

  13. wonderlandhwy

    It amazes me that most of the people complaining about the new AZ immigration law do not even live there!

    • I think most people are shocked/appalled by the racism that the law is ignited by. The law doesn’t address border patrol control, but only targets those that are already in the country.

  14. It’s was good, it will make people think!

  15. The new movie Machete is going to help the situation either. It addresses the whole immigration situation with a violent solution.

    • Veronica, thanks for the tip about the film. I just watched the trailer, which opens with a threatening dedication to Arizona. This film could ignite a deadly wildfire of reactionary violence. It’s bloody awful!

  16. People can’t stop discussing the controversial Arizona Immigration Law. America has not been used to the reactionary politics applied by Jan Brewer. But maybe it’s high time to stop the constant abuse of American hospitality?
    The American society is splitted into two parts…and evidences of both hold water. People expect Obama to react.
    Voice your opinion at immigration.civiltalks.com

    • Interesting points, Evelyn. I like the intent of your blog: to promote civil discussion about the immigration issue. I noticed in your opinion poll that 70% of your respondents are in favor of the Arizona law that requires the police to check immigration status.

      The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that US immigration policy is tied to corporate malfeasance.

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