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Arizona worsens issue of immigration for playing enforcer of federal matters

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By Eduardo Barraza, Barriozona Magazine, Race-Talk contributorPhoenix, Arizona. April 27, 2010 -  Some people from Arizona, or those who have lived here for quite a while, may be appalled but not surprised about the dramatic turn the volatile issue of immigration has taken in this state during the last few days.

The passage of Senate Bill 1070, signed into law on Friday, April 23, 2010 by Governor Janice Brewer, could be only considered the straw that broke the camel's back, since Arizona’s legislators have been implementing similar laws for at least the last 15 years.

From laws regarding driver licenses, public assistance programs, education, smuggling of people and many others, Arizona has taken their own initiative to supposedly fight illegal immigration in the state.

SB 1070 is considered the most strict immigration law at the state level, and is targeted to immigrants who lack legal status in the United States. The law makes it a crime to be in Arizona without legal papers, and allows local police agencies to enforce federal immigration law. The passage of SB 1070 makes Arizona the first state that criminalizes immigrants who entered without permit.

Arizona has taken immigration law into its own hands for the last decade and a half, and in such an aggressive way anyone would think immigrants without documents are a thing of the past, that the problem of immigration has been solved thanks to strong legislation, and that this state could be a model on how to tackle such a polarizing and complicated issue. Nothing could be so far from the truth.

Instead, Arizona was dubbed “immigration ground” zero when a series of volatile street protests burst in Phoenix in the fall of 2007, and now with the passage of 1070, it has also become the epicenter of sharp criticism and mockery around the nation and the world in 2010.

Arizona has also become a failed and shameful laboratory where immigrants from Latin America are a demographic experiment for politicians who have decided to play enforcing immigration law at the expense of brown people, legally in the country or not.

According to a 2008 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Arizona is now home to 19 documented hate groups, 10 of them Neo-Nazi, which thrive thanks to politicians like Senator Russell Pearce who promote so-called immigration state laws targeted to specific ethnic groups.

A revealing National Geographic Channel documentary titled "American Skinheads" that aired on Wednesday, March 19, 2008, included a segment about Arizona's growing and violent racist activities by white supremacists, neo-nazis, skinheads and others. The documentary affirmed that "racist skinheads and white supremacists are flooding into Arizona and heading toward the U.S.-Mexico border..."

Seeking to fix a problem beyond its reach and resources, Arizona has earned a dumb reputation, brewed hate and racism, and become the subject of understandable mockery across the nation and other countries. Arizona has also proven that it has forgotten a fundamental economic lesson, when the state refused to adopt Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a paid holiday years ago.

With the new 1070 law, Arizona is clearly determined to continue on the path of failure not only as an enforcer of immigration law, but also of economic collapse. Arizona’s quest to become the national laboratory of local immigration laws has positioned it to become another laboratory, one for likely successful economic boycotts.

After the passage of this new law, the United States and other countries have awaken to a reality that Arizona residents have endured and fought for years. The reaction of people who live outside the state against SB 1070 has intensified the daily struggle Arizonans who oppose this type of legislation, as well as increasing the level of support. This would surely strengthen a movement that many of us embraced from the beginning, and hopefully persuade some locals who are still in disbelief.

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Eduardo BarrazaHe is a multimedia journalist with over two decades of experience. When he began his career, he specialized in photojournalism working for various newspapers and magazines. Later, he established an international journalistic service that provided stories and photographs to publications in Mexico and the United States. Seeking to take his experience to a deeper level, Barraza founded the Hispanic Institute of Social Issues in 1998, which has evolved since then into a grassroots multimedia publishing agency, focusing on social issues affecting Latinos and other minorities. In 2002, he founded Barriozona Magazine, a bilingual print publication that in 2006 developed into an E-zine to reach a greater audience. Barraza is also the author of the book titled “The Shoes of the Immigrant and Other Writings”. As journalism continues to progress and is reinventing itself, Barraza has tapped into the use of digital resources to reinforce the power of a press that presents the voice of the people as opposed to “being the voice” of the people. As he sees new challenges arise for journalism, Barraza strives to uphold the true tenants of his beloved profession, among them truth, objectivity, and independence.