Arizona is one of the most complicated states I’ve ever visited. In the fall of 2007 I was living with my wife in Tucson. For Thanksgiving we left Tucson and eighty degree weather for some time at the Grand Canyon. That night we slept in a tent on the rim of the Canyon for as long as we could stand it, braving sub-freezing temperatures in sweatpants and long sleeve shirts. Well before sunrise we finally retreated to the car, where in a very environmentally unsound fashion we idled the engine for hours to enjoy the heat and defrost our faces. That’s how I think about Arizona: a land of extremes.
Extreme temperature and terrain shifts are also accompanied by extreme compassion and fury. On the compassion side, there are lots of very dedicated people organizing for immigrant rights and to rescue desperate migrants who are attempting to cross the border–hundreds of whom die each year. We were fortunate enough to spend a day with the Samaritans, one of several groups who hike and drive along the border looking for folks in distress.
There is also just an insane amount of anger at Latino immigrants, which I’ve had the non-pleasure of getting to witness over the years, beginning with my travels with the Minutemen in 2005.
What makes Arizona such a funny place for such immigrant hatred is that almost no one I ever met while in Arizona is actually from Arizona (one of the few exceptions were members of the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation). On Sundays at the local sports bar in Tucson, folks argued over what football games they wanted to watch–but no one really cared about the Cardinals. I wanted to watch the Giants, another guy from San Diego was lobbying for the Chargers, a third woman from Wisconsin hoped to catch the Packers. Arizona is a state of newcomers, and like many newcomers, once they lay claim to the area they jealously guard it as their personal property.
Which perhaps helps explain the noxious new bill awaiting Governor Jan Brewer’s veto or signature. The bill, SB1070, would, among many other awful things, allow all government employees who harbor “reasonable suspicion” that a person is undocumented to demand identification and make it a crime for immigrants to not carry authorization papers.
The bill’s sponsor, Russell Pearce, is a complete idiot, but I was also curious to learn that he was joined by a State Representative from Yuma, Bill Konopnicki. If there is one person who should know the benefits of immigrants to Arizona, it’s Konopnicki. For example, here’s a photo of my lettuce crew:
Every other lettuce crew in Yuma consisted exclusively of Latinos, who all presumably look “reasonably suspicious” because they don’t have the pasty white skin of a Russell Pearce or Bill Konopnicki. That’s really what this bill comes down to: if you look Latino, get ready to be targeted.
So I’d like to recommend that everyone make a phone call or send an email to Governor Brewer and demand that she veto the bill. You can email her through this link: http://presente.org/ref/30667/campaigns/arizona.
Also, you can make a phone call directly to the Governor at 602-542-4331 or 1-800-253-0883. And definitely feel free to pass along…