With all the talk about Arizona's tough new immigration law crowding the web and the news stations, I couldn't help but wonder what's really going on--without the headlines, and the agendas, and the spin. Lucky for me, I have a close friend who's lived in Tucson for over 9 years. Not only is Dave a friend, he's someone whose judgment I trust, someone who is always ready with a word of comfort or sage advice.
So I asked him about the new law and its effects on the ground in Arizona. He was glad to share his thoughts, tho cautioning me that Tucson itself is pretty Democratic, while the rest of the state is very conservative. With that in mind, I still wanted to hear his perspective.
First, he said, there's the issue of leadership. When AZ Governor Janet Napolitano was picked by the Obama Administration to head the Department of Homeland Security, the move left the Governor's post open to a Republican, Jan Brewer. Napolitano, Dave explained to me, was savvy and well liked by Arizonans on both sides of the political spectrum, while Brewer has courted only the Right. Dave also notes that since Brewer has been in office, the rift between Left and Right has grown, state services have been cut, and the state is losing money. Brewer, he also notes, was quick to advocate blocking the national Healthcare Reform bill that recently passed into law.
Interestingly, not all of those in public service and enforcement are behind the new law. Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik (a 52-year police veteran and not somebody anyone would call soft on crime) not only finds the new immigration law stupid and racist (his words) but plans to instruct his staff not to enforce it. Dupnik stands by his policy of detaining illegal aliens and handing them over to the border patrol. Dave agrees, saying that the new law is unenforceable as well as racist.
As for what people at the barbershops and pancake houses (visit Bobo's if you're in Tucson) think about the new law, he says there really isn't much chatter about it as there seems to be elsewhere in the country. "I'm surprised the thing passed," he said, "and at how quickly it passed." He also believes the law is unlikely to withstand a court challenge, especially if it goes to the Supreme Court. (I have slightly less faith in our highest Justices.)
One piece of news that never made the nightly report outside Arizona was this story about a Douglas AZ rancher allegedly murdered by someone who crossed the border illegally (then crossed back to evade arrest). The story did, however, get a fair amount of play in Arizona, fueling calls for something (pretty much anything) to be done about illegal border crossings. This, along with rhetorical references to southern Arizona as "a war zone" may explain some of the furor that gave this new law its legs.
Thanks, Dave, for your insights. And for letting me publish this.