PHOENIX   




PHOENIX


In 2010, a huge showdown on the immigration issue emerged in Phoenix and all of Arizona with the passage of the controversial SB 1070 law giving local law enforcement officers power to enforce national immigration law.

Boycotts in Arizona began immediately, and rallies against the law sprang up across the nation.

On June 5, as part of the DukeEngage on the Border project, I traveled with three students to a pro-SB 1070 rally called "Phoenix Rising" in the Arizona capital where we heard speakers Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the former congressman Tom Tancredo, and State Representative Russell Pearce deliver their rallying cries in the 107-degree heat.

Two thousand or so gathered to cheer them on. The blistering language from the stage; placards attacking Obama, Mexicans, and any “illegal immigrant”;
the biker gangs wearing "White Boy" insignias; racist groups selling flags, t-shirts and other paraphernalia, along with a number of men and women "packing heat" - all gave the rally a less-than-subtle undercurrent of hatred and fear.

We walked across the street to find a quiet counter-protest. About forty people sang in the shade of a tree where hunger striker Pati Madrigal prayed and lit candles.

Nearby the United Farmworkers held their sign in solidarity. George Clifton, retired Marine and former CIA employee, stood on the street corner with a pro-immigrant sign, waving and smiling to passing motorists.

He summed up his protest this way: “I feel cowardly if I don’t do anything. After all, I lucked out... my mom had me here.”