Arizona has had a few days to let the reality of the new immigration law, SB 1070, settle in, and many don't like what they see. Beyond fears of racial profiling and civil rights abuses in cities like Phoenix, where about a third of the population is Latino, local activist and businessman Tommy Espinoza says the fabric of his community is slowly unraveling.
Espinoza, president and CEO of RazaÂ Development Fund, has lived in Phoenix all his life. He witnessed the mass migration from south of the border that accompanied Phoenix's construction boom in the '80s and '90s, when attitudes toward immigrant labor were "different," he says. Two decades later, many of those workers have settled in the area, raised families andÂ become part of the community, contributing economic and social capital. Now, he says, the specter of SB 1070 is fostering anger and paranoia.
In fact, it's already happening, he says. Latinos, both documented and illegal, are staying indoors out of fear they'll get picked up, and others are fixing to leave the state altogether, he says.
In the meantime, tensions are rising.
After Mass on Sunday, Espinoza and his wife, sons and grandchildren went to a local Mexican restaurant for lunch. As they entered, a young man who recognized Espinoza shouted, "Raza, he doesn't represent me." Espinoza says his son got in the young man's face, prompting his wife to intervene and break up the two young men, he recalls with a shudder.
"I told my son, it's not worth shedding blood over it," Espinoza said, his confident voice trailing off as he stared at his hands, struggling for composure. "But, it could happen again and again, and I think that's what people don't realize. When you inject anger and fear into the community, you get the worst of people."
Espinoza thinks there has to be a way to give undocumented immigrants some sort of status so that they can keep contributing to the community.
"When people put in this law, they don't consider the humanity and dignity of those it's going to affect. You cause evil anger," he said. "I'm hoping it doesn't get worse."