April 27th, 2010
06:58 PM ET

Activist: Immigration law brings out worst in people

Tommy Espinoza, president of Raza Development Fund in Phoenix, Arizona, talks about his views on the new immigration law.

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 Raza 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 and 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."

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Filed under: Arizona • Immigration
soundoff (565 Responses)
  1. walther

    What an overall bunch of drivel from most comments especially from the one's whom profess a knowledge of historical fact. We are a country of laws and when laws are ignored then we make new laws to correct problems and problems only fester. As to the idiots refering to German SS and slang get a life and ask your grandfather "what did you do in the war and fight for". Oh sorry maybe your grandfather is not from this country!

    May 6, 2010 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. walther

    Just an update for the miss informed, our goverment is no longer the INS its called ICE. Having worked in a state prison would you do gooders explaine to me our current gang problems and a growing prison population of ICE inmates. Any clue? Do some research and find out the cost. Lara do your research, it was called the wet back law. What the hell is "actual law of man", what a hoot ya 1960's throw back. By the way I was Army 1968- 1970.

    May 6, 2010 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. mad man

    if you cant sneak in a movie you will go to jail...if you sneak in a hotel you will go to jail if you are not were you are supose to be you will be in trouble and if i use my friends name and pretend im him i should got to jail ..... if i dont pay taxes i should go to jail i think you know where im going with this .....

    May 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tony

    For those complaining about the possibility of racial profiling, I ask you to consider this: it is an undisputed fact that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are hispanic. So compare this to any other crime. If police are tipped off through eye wittness accounts that a caucasian man commited a crime, they'd have no reason to investigate women or people of color as potential suspects. So while there may be more focus on the hispanic community, it's only due to the fact that those are the people commiting this crime. I feel bad for those who may be suspected for a crime that they didn't commit, however that's the way it is when they fit the profile of a potential criminal and once they show they're not who the officer is looking for, they'd be on their way in just a matter of minutes.

    May 10, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. Enrique

    It's funny to read some of the commnets in here. I remember how the Mexican government was protesting the new law. The Mexican government imagine that. the same Mexican government that just last week, arrested two Salvadoran migrants that crossed their border illegally on their way to the USA. Mexican border police not just arrested them and handcuffed them, they were also CHAINED!!! Now isn't this irony and also hypocracy? The Salvadoran migrants file a complain at the Salvadoran consulate of the area. They also said the Mexican agents confiscated $560 dollars they had with them and only returned $180.00. Now where was Gloria, Emilio Estefan, Shakira when the Mexican government was commiting this hateful act? Why didn't they go in front of a Mexican government building to protest? Bunch of hypocrates.

    May 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. And justice for all...who are in the states legally

    its time we held this country accountable for letting the illegal immigration get this bad..is it too late?

    May 16, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ed

    Hopefully the government will do the right thing and get rid of all illegal aliens once and for all. Send 'em all home, now!!!!

    May 17, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  8. CGeorgeK

    Do you know what really brings out the worse in people? It is when a federal government, guided by Congresses and White house adminstrations, year after year after year after year after yeatr allow the invasion of illegal immigrants – which only encouages more to come – unitl now we have millions of them, sucking the resources out of our economy, ilmporting drugs and weapons, exporting drug money, as well as, a good portion of the money they earn here,
    back to their beloved Mexico. Why is it, the Governmen has to be reminded that coming here illegally is a crime? If the federal government won't enforce the law, Arizona will, and if Arizona is restained from doing so – then I predict that there are plenty of americans who will organize and assume the responsibility of enforcing immigration law and deporting illegals – (deporting in this context has a broad definition) So what if a few legals end up "collateral damage" – it is no big deal – we make "collateral damage" of innocents every day in Iraq and Afganistan, right?. Most real Americans do not want this country to become an more like "Mexico" than it already has.

    June 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CGeorgeK

    Let's see, our government has stood mute all the while our major corporations export american jobs to foreign countries -forced free trade upon us and stood mute to millions of illegals coming across our borders and taken jobs away from Americans – and now, our government is pretending to be scrambling to find ways to create jobs for Americans in America? What a joke! But, the joke would be on the government were the standard of living of the American People diminishes to the point of revolution. Yet, with so many Americans on the dole, on illegal drugs and on prescription drugs, is there reallly anyone who cares what's going on in this country?

    June 3, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
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