Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, April 30, 2010
      ( 4/30/2010 05:58:00 PM ) Bill S.  

“ARIZONA, TAKE OFF YOUR HOBO SHOES.” Been thinking at lot about the controversy surrounding our new home state this week: hard not to, of course, when a certain level of embarrassment about Arizona’s draconian “reasonable suspicion” immigration law has us wondering whether we lit in the right state after moving from the Midwest two-and-a-half years ago. It’s been bad enough watching a Republican-led state legislature steadily drain money from social and behavioral health services -- an area where I’ve devoted most of my working life -- to see it now become a late-nite talkshow symbol of reactive intolerance is out-and-out depressing.

I can understand some of the fear-slash-anger fueling this measure, of course. Watch the teevee news for any length of time out of Tucson or Phoenix, and you get battered by reports of violence linked to Mexican drug gangs. (Tusconian Dirk Deppey describes some recent incidents.) But so much of this violence has less to do with the immigration issue than it does the illegal drug culture -- and the two issues have become so mushed together through politically fueled fear of Those People that it’s become impossible for many folks to separate ‘em.

For me, the big problem with the new measure lies in its focus -- which remains on the immigrants but not the people who profit from their exploitation. Make no mistake: in this state, there’s a large economy supported on the backs of illegals: not just coyotes or drug lords, but fast food concerns, agribusinesses, the hotel industry, anybody who hires an undocumented immigrant to do the grunt work. Working with low-income families in Southern Arizona over the past two years, I had the occasion to visit a mother with a boyfriend (and father of her children) who was an illegal. He was one of a group of guys who crossed the border to work in the fields for months at a time until he was picked up and transported back down South, then a few weeks later, he’d sneak back to his job and family.

The life that this man was able to provide his wife and kids was, frankly, shitty. They lived in a battered trailer located in an area outside of town known by the locals as “Little Mexico.” Largely inhabited by migrant workers, Little Mexico was no small part of the region’s economy, though it sure wasn’t anything you’d see acknowledged in the tourist brochures alongside, say, the Rex Allen Museum.

And from what I can see, the ongoing use and abuse of undocumented workers is so much a part of the Grand Canyon State that any attempt at stopping and identifying suspected illegals is a bandaid solution at best -- and an invitation to racist abuse at worst. At this particularly blighted point in our political history, though, I’m not really expecting members from either party to actually stand up and attempt to address the real underlying issue in our newish home state. There’s still too much money to made through calculated misdirection, in a bill that has the appearance of making Arizonans safer by pandering to the broadest kind of scapegoating.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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