The Origins Of SB 1070

August 9, 2010

An interesting story published in USA Today yesterday about one Arizona town’s take on SB 1070. There’s not much new discovered by the reporter sent out to take the pulse of Apache Junction, but one observation by a resident struck me as a bit odd.

Namely, that laws such as SB 1070 are the result of a political backlash initiated by newcomers who are not familiar with immigrants, in particular, those of an Hispanic origin. As a result of this unfamiliarity, they demand that the state legislature and law enforcement arms of state and municipal government crack down on illegal aliens.

I find this assertion hard to believe for several reasons. First of all, the notion that the waves of interstate newcomers that have populated Arizona-and much of the Southwest-over the past two to three decades came from monochromatic hometowns that lack any ethnic diversity seems implausible on its face. Granted, there may be some ex-Vermonters who’ve decided to relocate to the Grand Canyon State, but chances are that many of the people who’ve moved there come from states like New Jersey, Illinois, and my very own state of New York. In other words, it’s not as if these newcomers have never interacted with those of Mexican, or Honduran, or Guatemalan extraction.

Secondly, this view presupposes that laws such as SB 1070, and concern over the potential for violence spilling into the United States, is  simply a case of misunderstanding, and not a result of the dramatic increase in violence within Northern Mexico that we’ve all either heard of and/or read about, or if you’re a long-time resident of Arizona, been aware of for some time.

Finally, I think the assumption that different people have widely varied reactions to a specific set of facts based upon where they lived ten years ago hard to believe. At least, with regard to this specific issue. Most people agree that the current immigration system is broken, although their solutions to the problem vary widely. Almost everyone  knows that the anarchic situation in Mexico’s five Northern states will pose a problem for the United States if Mexico can not stabilize things in the coming years.

Whatever the solution to this problem is, it will involve doing something to maintain security on the narrow, wide strip of land that separates the two countries. It doesn’t matter whether you are an Arizona native or a recent newcomer from another state, the truth is that these are simply inescapable facts. How we address them will determine the future of Arizona and the rest of the country.

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