Appraising Arizona
The experts examine the state's new immigration law.


The Arizona law may seem ham-handed to those of us living in the rest of the country, but perhaps this is the extreme to which a state must go in order to call the federal government’s attention to the serious problem of illegal immigration and its costs. States have passed resolution after resolution calling for federal attention, but to little avail. One might view this latest development less as an effort to change Arizona law and more as an attempt to catch national attention and force some kind of action.

As for the charges of racism, this is the familiar canard leveled at anyone who questions the value of unrestricted immigration. The fact is that, if the vast majority of the Arizonans who support this law were racist, something like it would have been passed 30 or 40 years ago, before illegal immigration became associated with rising crime and fiscal and economic problems. Did Arizonans wake up last month and suddenly notice that some Mexicans have a different skin tone? I don’t think so.

The fact is that Arizonans have been incredibly gracious and tolerant for a very long time now. It is only with the rising drug trade along the border, mixed with the state’s present economic strain, that they have begun to question the warm welcome they have customarily extended our southern neighbors.

A major catalyst for the present legislation appears to have been the murder of a rancher last month in southern Arizona — killed by Mexican drug smugglers. The long-standing problem of undocumented workers has been replaced by the much more alarming rise of drug gangs in Arizona’s cities and towns. The new law sounds extreme, but it is the kind of measure that sounds reasonable in a climate of great fear. Arizona’s welcome mat will be out again, but not until our national government takes some serious steps to ensure the security and prosperity of the Copper State’s citizens.

James G. Gimpel is a professor of government at the University of Maryland, College Park.


Mexico’s governors and state legislators have
turned hypocrisy from an art form into an exact science by lambasting their Arizona counterparts’ gambit to curb illegal immigration — a move supported by 70 percent of the Grand Canyon State’s citizens. Rather than devoting resources to creating jobs in Mexico for expatriates unlawfully residing in Arizona and other U.S. states, they have been squandering state funds on themselves and their sidekicks.

For instance, the venal state executive of impoverished Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz, has purchased 164 vehicles for the enjoyment of his cronies with federal funds earmarked for the construction and equipping of a specialized hospital in San Bartolo Coyotepec. At the same time, Zeferino Torreblanca, governor of dirt-poor Guerrero state, used taxpayer pesos to fly 37 state officials to an International Tourism Fair in Madrid, Spain. Not to be outdone, the Guadalajara-based Jalisco legislature gave 500 of its staff members a 75.5 percent pay increase during the first quarter of this year. In preparation for Mexico’s bicentennial, Guanajuato governor Juan Manuel Oliva will dole out $3.25 million for a celebratory statue. Meanwhile, Francisco Garrido Patrón, who recently left the Querétaro statehouse, lavished $75,000 on each of his eleven outgoing cabinet secretaries.

And these outlays pale in comparison with princely expenditures by Mexico’s federal lawmakers. While these rampant abuses persist, Mexican lawmakers have no right to complain about the U.S.’s enforcement of its immigration laws.

George W. Grayson teaches at the College of William & Mary and is author of Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?


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