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The Dream Divided: Understanding the Ariz. immigration law



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DOUGLAS, Ariz. -- The controversy over immigration in Utah has its roots in Arizona -- a state that is on the front line of illegal immigration. We cannot understand our own debate until we better understand the one there.

Living near the border

Border patrol agents in Douglas, Ariz., watch the porous line that runs east and west as far as the eye can see. This stretch of land has a new barricade, at $3 million a mile, replacing the fence that was there.


This is our place, our territory, and they're coming in and they're running it over us. It's very -- it's hard to be tolerant.

–Wendy Glenn, Ariz. rancher


#glenn_quote

"It was eight-strand barbed wire, and it was an old fence; and they would just kick it and break it," says rancher Wendy Glenn. "We were constantly fixing fence to keep our cattle from going to Mexico."

Glenn and her husband have operated a cattle ranch on the border for 50 years.

"The illegals were going through in a mile stretch," she says. "We would fix 50 or 60 holes a week."

These days, Glenn says she fears for her safety. Many ranchers are on edge over an unsolved murder and what Glenn says are constant incursions.

"I am so tired of this. This is our place, our territory, and they're coming in and they're running it over us. It's very -- it's hard to be tolerant," Glenn says.

Arizona's immigration legislation

Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce
Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce

Roughly 150 miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border, the Arizona Legislature said "no more," and began a movement for states to take on immigration enforcement themselves.

Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce has made his reputation as a law-and-order man.

"Thirty years they've been promising to secure that border," Pearce says. "They're all criminals. If they've broken into this country, or remain, it's a crime."

Pearce is the author and the face of Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants. In his view, they're the source of an enormous public safety problem.

"[They're] child molesters; they're rapists; they're drug runners; they're human smugglers, gang members. It's outrageous," Pearce says.

Many oppose Arizona immigration law

A few miles away, in Mesa, Ariz., people who would beg to differ with Pearce believe what is outrageous is the police mandate under Arizona's new law.

"They may want to stop me because they may think I'm a Mexican," says naturalized U.S. citizen Gabriel Calderon. "I am a Mexican, but you know, my skin, it says it all."


If you look at [Senate Bill] 1070, what do you not see? You don't see anything about money laundering. You don't see anything about cop killing. It's ‘how do we stop and arrest regular folks?' That's what it is.

–Kevin Gibbons, Ariz. immigration attorney


#gibbons_quote

Calderon says the law makes him sad.

"I feel that I've been betrayed," he says.

Carmello, who has no papers, says people are afraid.

"The reality is people are leaving for places away from here," he said through a translator.

"It's the community, as a whole, that's leaving. They're not even looking at if it's legal or illegal because it's kind of all combined," says Tiffany Cons, manager of the Rancho Grande supermarket.

Cons says since passage of Arizona's law in April, so many Hispanic customers have left Mesa that sales have fallen 25 percent.

That is not the economic impact trumpeted by Pearce.

"Here's the cost of not enforcing the law in Arizona: $2.7 billion to educate, medicate and incarcerate," Pearce says.

But Phoenix immigration attorney Kevin Gibbons says Pearce's numbers aren't quite right.

"It's a great line," Gibbons says. "Those aren't the facts. They're not based on facts. He just threw those out, numbers, and that's not true."

Coming Up:

Gibbons lost to Pearce in a lopsided Republican primary -- a race between two men from East Mesa, both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but sharply divided on this issue. As such, their Senate race became Arizona's referendum on immigration.

Gibbons, as a moderate, found himself without a political base. He insists what's really going on with Arizona's law is not an effort to fight crime.

"If you look at [Senate Bill] 1070, what do you not see? You don't see anything about money laundering. You don't see anything about cop killing. It's ‘how do we stop and arrest regular folks?' That's what it is," Gibbons says.

"The first line in 1070," Gibbons continues, "is ‘attrition through enforcement.' Basically, we're going to wear the bastards down. That's what we're doing … that's the objective; and make it so miserable that they'll leave."

Anecdotal evidence suggests immigrants are leaving Arizona as voices in Utah call for a similar law.

In Tuesday's installment of "The Dream Divided," we will consider whether undocumented workers help or hurt an economy.

E-mail: blindsay@ksl.com

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Bruce Lindsay

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