By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Current estimates peg the number of immigrants who have fled the ongoing Mexican pogrom in Arizona at 100,000. Fully 20 percent of Arizona's immigrant population has moved, mostly to other states. Ignore — if you choose — the dogging of people who came here for no meaner reason than to work; this hounding cannot happen without targeting American citizens who are of Latin descent.
That's a fact, Jack — one brown man looks like the next.
If you think this sort of harassment is no big deal, you do not grasp what it means to be American. Living in peace does not involve tinhorns acting like First World guardia.
Every interrogation scrapes self-respect raw. Lawmen who question your presence, rather than your behavior, make toxic the idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . Even if your papers are in order, particularly if your papers are in order, every confrontation is a violation.
What does Daniel, who was not born by accident into citizenship but worked to live here legally, tell his daughters?
He starts to answer but chokes up. "I try to tell them [that] I truly believe that [SB 1070] will not happen. I never told them, 'You need to be Mexican and push white people back.'" He raised them as the American citizens they are, who now hear that their 65-year-old father and, now, 70-year-old mother are rousted for the color of their skin.
After she signed SB 1070, Governor Jan Brewer put running Mexicans to ground into context. She informed a television audience on June 15 that immigrants did not come here to work but rather to smuggle drugs.
All of them.
This crack helped make Jan Brewer a national heroine, because people across this fair land are watching the goings-on in Arizona, and because every poll suggests that a majority of our countrymen like what they see. Some are doing more than just watching.
Last month, the good people of Freemont, Nebraska (not to be confused with Fremont, Nebraska, a relatively progressive small city near Omaha), voted to make it illegal to rent an apartment to an undocumented immigrant. For added measure, they made it illegal to hire an illegal. Folks in Freemont have their blood up, despite the fact that less than 10 percent in their community are non-white. And the Mexicans and Guatemalans who do live there are employed in meat-packing plants outside town. (No reputable survey yet suggests that America's high-school seniors envision employment in a charnel house, either. In fact, the idea that our little Jimmys and Susies want to doff their caps and gowns and put a bolt in Elsie the cow's skull and then cut her up is so piquant that Gallup has yet to consider the question.).
So voters of Freemont are opting to shut down their primary source of tax revenue just to rid themselves of Latinos. In this noble undertaking, they join like-minded Americans in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and Farmer's Branch, Texas, who have passed similar edicts.
With the winds of economic dislocation, we are discovering that the topsoil of our souls is without the stabilizing roots of decency. Bone-ribbed Joads who can't rope up the guilty bankers settle instead for innocent Mexicans.
And our politicians play to these hillbillies.
One candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, Barry Wong, sniffed the breeze of discontent. He promised, on June 29, that if he's elected to regulate utilities, he'll cut off heating, cooling, and water from any and all illegal immigrants.
Hundreds die every year crossing the Sonoran desert into Arizona, and Wong suggests that the thirst and chill and terrifying heat be continued once the Mexican reaches civilization.
I visited recently with one of Arizona's grande dames, Carole Steele. She once ran a trail-blazing bistro in the Valley, but these days she oversees an organic fruit orchard in Aravaipa Canyon, where she hosts the occasional traveler. She is not typically an eye-roller, but she did have a brief story in reaction to Wong's suggestion.
Years before, she met a young woman in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the art studio Steele ran. When Carole returned to Arizona, the girl, Rosa, crossed the southwestern desert on foot and worked for Carole's family. Over time, Rosa grew into a responsible young woman who married a truck driver in Mexico. She crossed back and forth, making the trek across the wilderness to supplement her income in Carole's employ. As often happens, Rosa became one of the family, albeit one who came and went. Inevitably, an elderly member of Carole's circle became quite ill. When word reached Rosa in Mexico, she insisted upon walking back to America to nurse, to tend, which she did. In 2000, they found Rosa's body in the desert. She was on her way back to Carole.
No one at the table had a further comment about Barry Wong.
But I have a question.
Mr. Wong: Your ancestors — and here I'm taking a stab in the dark — they came over on the Mayflower or originated in a Navajo hogan? Is this why you do not recall with any sense of empathy the savagery directed at Chinese immigrants?