The people of Arizona are questioning the essence of the United States. They are opposed to the fundamental values of the U.S.: its Constitution, the meaning of freedom and equality, of being a country of migrants and meritocracy. The threat is against their own country, not against Mexicans.
Arizona is governed separately. It has been characterized by high levels of intolerance — enough to recall two examples: During World War II, concentration camps were built for Germans, Japanese and Italians, in an effort to reduce the "Axis threat." Later, during the ‘80s, people in Arizona objected to honoring Martin Luther King Jr., which had economic consequences, forcing them to change their position. They lost the right to host the Super Bowl! Today, they are about to lose the 2011 NBA All-Star Game.
Their intolerance is reflected in the treatment of Mexicans. “Hate laws,” or “safe neighborhood laws” have been implemented — safe neighborhoods with a legally armed population? Remember that the state's economy was traditionally strong in mining and agriculture. Its economic boom is due to the construction and tourism sectors. In all of these sectors, the role of immigrants has been an important one. Today, losing numerous conferences (with a loss of $90 million) and driving tourists away is not important, even worthless, to them. Arizona has to be different — even more so, when faced with an African-American president.
Today, they are trying to create an Arizona citizenship, very different from U.S. citizenship. They began with their law, SB1070, but the laws passed Tuesday by the state senate, are even worse. Without going into detail, they are summarized below:
Citizenship, as well as education, medical services, housing and work are denied to those born within its borders if the parents are illegal. They want a private fund to build a wall along the border, and they seek to create a "state armed force for the security and protection of the lives and property of its inhabitants."* This undermines the civil rights of citizens and non-citizens. They want to implement a citizenship with two types of birth certificates.
Once again, they are playing outside the rules of the country. Their proposal seeks to exempt the state from abiding by international standards. Closing Hispanic studies centers and universities doesn’t bother them, and they are even less concerned about developing the political and economic relationship between Mexico and Arizona, or with the U.S.
Legislators argue that the anti-Mexican laws do not respect international law. Nor do they care that they are in opposition of the Organization of American States or the U.N., which could accuse them with charges of cultural genocide of denying access to the culture, language and education of its population (6.5 million inhabitants, of which 1.8 million are Mexican).
They want the U.S. Supreme Court to rule over obtaining citizenship, which is to say, they are trying to change the Constitution; however, more than 60 percent of the population is opposed to it. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 87 percent of Americans are concerned about economic issues, and the issue of immigration is of concern to only 46 percent. Hence, among Republicans, 61 percent consider immigration as a priority; among independents, a lower percentage of 47 percent; and among Democrats, only 33 percent.
Obama's immigration policies are not working for Arizona. But why? What does their position mean? It is interesting to observe that Republicans wave the banners of hatred and intolerance. Today, they question what Obama said in his latest State of the Union address. He mentioned the need for a more flexible immigration system in order to grow the economy. He also said, "Having secure borders does not mean that those working in the U.S. must live in the shadow and without rights."* He criticized Arizona for considering measures that challenge basic notions of equality and trust among people in their state which, for Obama, guarantee the security of the country.
Arizona opposes the president and the nation, limiting state decisions to internal issues. The data indicate that the state has lost more than 300,000 skilled jobs since 2008. Projections show it will create only 11,000 new manufacturing jobs over the next seven years. Low-wage jobs are not affected, but its inhabitants do not want to take them; hence, they require cheap labor. In addition, the profile of the population in Arizona has changed. Ten years ago, 72 percent were Anglo-Saxon, and today, they make up 58 percent. Hispanics account for 38 percent, 90 percent of which are Mexican. Curiously, many Hispanics have favored the new legislation. This is contradictory, especially because between 2000 and 2010, Arizona's population grew by 24.6 percent, of which 56.8 percent is Hispanic growth. The laws work against them — especially because of the historic possibility of a law that regulates immigration.
Calderón needs to close ranks with Obama and the Democrats. He also needs to reach an agreement with the Republicans. Will he take advantage of his visit next week to begin a strong lobby in favor of bipartisan dialogue? Will his team take the successful steps? Faced with unilateral measures in Arizona, there is little we Mexicans can do directly. But much could be achieved at the federal level and from Washington. Good luck, Mr. President.
*Editor's Note: These quotations, accurately translated, could not be verified.