Support for Arizona Immigration Law Cleaves Along Racial Lines

Recent polls show about 55 percent of Arizonans support SB 1070, which is down from 70 percent a few months ago. But along racial lines, the fault lines are obvious. More than 70 percent of whites support the law; more than 70 percent of Latinos oppose it.

It didn’t have to be this way. There are enough fractures in the Latino community that it would have been possible to come up with a measure that split the community in half -- Latino immigrants on one side, and Latino natives on the other. In that scenario, few natives would have come to the defense of the immigrants. But the architects of SB 1070 weren’t that smart, and they clearly didn’t have that sophisticated an understanding of the community they were running off.

So they cast the net much too wide. They twisted the legal term “reasonable suspicion” to the point where, in the real world of policing, the first hint that someone is in the country illegally will likely be skin color. And when there’s the possibility that police might ask for papers from those with dark skin, shouldn’t Mexican-Americans with dark skin be concerned and outraged?

Absolutely, said the young woman.

“It comes down to who you are at your core,” she said. “Logic goes out the window and you choose sides. A lot of people I know who were born here, and whose parents and grandparents were born here, are saying: '(Expletive) this!' Now it’s affecting everybody.”

That sounds right. Wherever I go here, and whomever I talk to in the Latino community, I see unity. A Latina Republican born in Arizona who has stopped giving money to her party in protest of its support for the immigration law. An immigrant from Mexico who became illegal when he overstayed his visa and now won’t leave the house except to go to work. What do these people have in common? Not much. They live in the same city, but they’re living different lives. And yet, now, there is one thing: yhey both abhor SB 1070, and they’re determined to hold accountable the politicians who wrote it, passed it, and are now trying to benefit from it.

Judge Bolton struck down those portions of the law that were most troubling and represented the greatest encroachment on federal authority. But the rest of the measure went into effect at the end of last month as scheduled. This battle is just getting started.

The waitress came over to the table to take our order. Throwing caution to the wind, my lunch companion gave into her craving.

“I’ll have the menudo,” she said, “with corn tortillas.”

Hey, every once in a while, you’ve got to take a stand. But you don't have to stand alone.

“Make it two,” I said.