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Immigrants on the Brink in Arizona and Some Suggested Reading

Readers,

As you can tell I am spending these winter weeks in Cochabamba doing a good deal more reading than writing (as it should be sometimes) and I want to draw your attention to an important article written by a friend, William Finnegan of the New Yorker.

This week marks the date when the state of Arizona is set to implement its new, draconian, anti-immigrant law.  The law is the prelude to a massive sweep of the state to try to find those in the U.S. without papers and to deport them.  The Democracy Center has worked with immigrants to defend their basic human rights since our earliest days in California, back during the last big U.S. anti-immigrant wave and the passage of Proposition 187.

Finnegan’s article below reminds us that it is bad economic times and the search for scapegoats that drives these waves, not anything about the immigrants themselves.  In California I saw the side of immigration that is about the hardships they are made to suffer if they make it across the border.  In Bolivia I bear daily witness to the hardships that make them take the risk of going.

I encourage all of you to take a few minutes and read the New Yorker article.

Jim Shultz

Borderlines

William Finnegan, the New Yorker

When the topic is illegal immigration, some of our political leaders reliably produce more heat than light. On April 28th, in a letter to President Obama, seventeen members of Congress, most of them from the Southwest, demanded immediate action to increase border security, noting that “violence in the vicinity of the U.S.-Mexico border continues to increase at an alarming rate.” Two days earlier, Senator John McCain, of Arizona, in a floor speech defending his state’s newly passed law requiring local officers to investigate individuals’ immigration status, described “an unsecured border between Arizona and Mexico, which has led to violence, the worst I have ever seen.” He went on to cite numbers for illegal immigrants apprehended last year “that stagger.”

In fact those numbers are surprising: they are sharply down, according to the Border Patrol—by more than sixty per cent since 2000, to five hundred and fifty thousand apprehensions last year, the lowest figure in thirty-five years. Illegal immigration, although hard to measure, has clearly been declining. The southern border, far from being “unsecured,” is in better shape than it has been for years—better managed and less porous. It has been the beneficiary of security-budget increases since September 11th, which have helped slow the pace of illegal entries, if not as dramatically as the economic crash did. Violent crime, though rising in Mexico, has fallen this side of the border: in Southwestern border counties it has dropped more than thirty per cent in the past two decades. It’s down in Senator McCain’s Arizona. According to F.B.I. statistics, the four safest big cities in the United States—San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso, and Austin—are all in border states.

Read the full New Yorker article here.


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