How Arizona became ground zero for immigration reform
Arizona didn't turn into a pressure cooker for immigration reform overnight, historians say.
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“The data is clear that [Gov. Jan] Brewer’s job approval ratings did jump compared to when she was struggling before SB 1070 was signed," says Ms. Kohli.Skip to next paragraph
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Arizona's restrictive bent on immigration goes back at least to the 1960s, says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. This is, after all, the home of five-term US Sen. Barry Goldwater – "Mr. Conservative" – the politician most often credited for sparking the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s.
“Arizona has always had a contrarian, cantankerous streak,” says Mr. Pitney. It has to do with demographics. In recent decades, Mexicans from the South have migrated here and have run into the shift of American population from the Northeast rust belt to the Southwest Sun Belt – largely older whites.
“What always surprises me about these debates is how quickly we forget," she says. "Some in the media have reported that SB 1070 marks a new high-water mark for anti-Mexican sentiment in the United States and a new precedent in the history of American immigration law.”
But she says Mexican immigrants have been repeatedly scapegoated for the nation's economic woes. Individuals of Mexican descent, whether undocumented immigrants, legal residents, or even US citizens, were forcibly removed from the US in deportation campaigns in the early 1920s, 1930s, and 1950s – all in the midst of a national economic downturn or crisis.
“I see SB 1070 … as another version of this cycle – a cycle in which we welcome undocumented workers in the good times but demand their removal in bad times,” says Dr. Kang.
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