An interesting article in Sunday’s Arizona Republic:
Amid immigration conflict, Arizona’s image takes a beating
by John Faherty – Aug. 1, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Arizona has become code for conflict.
Across the nation and the world, the Grand Canyon State is now emblematic of the great divide on issues of immigration.
National polling indicates that most Americans support the state’s illegal-immigration crackdown. Still, the state’s image has taken a beating.
Supporters of Senate Bill 1070 say the state is unsafe. Opponents say it is unkind.
And from outside the state, the portrayals have been scathing.
A cartoonist for the Bergen Record in New Jersey portrayed Adolf Hitler with his mustache in the shape of Arizona.
Jay Leno joked on his late-night show, “Rich people in Arizona may have to start raising their own children now.”
On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked significant elements of Senate Bill 1070. But the drama did not end. If anything, it increased.
Gov. Jan Brewer announced she would appeal the decision, calling it “a little bump in the road.”
Opponents of the bill forged ahead with street protests the next day as the rest of the law took effect. Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s deputies arrested many who blocked the entrance to his jail.
Outside, an army of cable TV cameras rolled, covering the events live for the world to see.
“Arizona is shorthand now for the immigration conflict in this country,” said David Rogers, executive director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia University. “The brand right now is conflict.”
As the issue entered the spotlight, the country was unable to look away from Arizona. In big cities and small towns, “SB 1070″ was a subject of conversation.
On the day after the judge blocked much of the law, the New York Times used the words “tragic,” “noxious” and “misbegotten” to describe it, all in the first paragraph of its editorial.
The smaller Aurora Sentinel of Colorado wrote: “Since Arizona officials refuse to see reason, it’s good news for everyone that the federal courts have in putting a halt to that state’s flawed plan to take on the problem of illegal immigration.”
The rest of the U.S. was even willing to get in on the protests.
In Los Angeles, traffic on Wilshire Boulevard was blocked on Thursday by more than 200 people protesting SB 1070.
That same afternoon in New York, protesters mimicked those in Phoenix and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge chanting their disagreement with the bill.
Any high-profile fight becomes fodder for comedians, and this one was no different. It was just louder.
Before the bill had even been signed by the governor, satirist Stephen Colbert said law-enforcement officers would be allowed to “Taser anyone using the word ‘chipotle.’ ”
And sometimes the state took a pummeling, even when the rhetoric wasn’t entirely accurate.
The Times of London wrote on its website that “A U.S. judge has blocked a controversial ‘racial profiling’ law which some said was reminiscent of the early days of Nazi Germany.” The story went on to say the law “would have allowed police to stop and arrest anyone.”
The law, while far-reaching, was less sweeping than that.
It said that an officer engaged in a lawful stop, detention or arrest shall, when practicable, ask about a person’s legal status when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the U.S. illegally.
Still, between being the subject of protests and the butt of jokes, it was clear Arizona had an image problem.
In May, Brewer acknowledged as much. “This is impacting Arizona’s face to the nation,” she said at the time.
Then she transferred $250,000 from the Arizona Department of Commerce to the Arizona Office of Tourism to support a new effort to polish Arizona’s image.
Sherry Henry has been working on that. She’s the executive director of the state’s tourism office.
“We try to get the word out that Arizona is still a warm and welcoming place to visit,” Henry said. “We are still the same Arizona.”
In Riverside, Ill., Theresa Coffey agreed.
“I would visit Arizona,” the 72-year-old said. “I have family there. I have been before, and I like it. All of the news has heightened my awareness of the debate, but I would still go. It’s always the politicians, never the people.”
Not everyone is convinced. “The state doesn’t seem all that attractive to me,” said Ignacio Carrillo, 56, a law professor in Mexico City. “I’d prefer to go to New York.”
The state group does not have enough money for a national advertising campaign, but it can conduct a public-relations blitz.
There will be newspaper commentaries and talk-show appearances in cities – like Chicago, San Francisco and Denver – where people have historically traveled to Arizona.
“Arizona is a place that people love and have always loved,” Henry said.
Still, it’s hard to do when the debate seems to hinge on the idea that your state is racked by violence.
Even Henry acknowledged it: “That has not made things easier.”
In May, Arizona Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama. “Many Arizonans do not feel safe within their own homes or on their own property,” the letter said. “They feel that they live in a lawless area of the country and have been abandoned by the federal government.”
Other members of Congress, including Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and John Shadegg, R-Ariz., sent Obama a letter asking that National Guard soldiers be sent to the border because “violence in the vicinity of the U.S. Mexico border continues to increase at an alarming rate.”
Two weeks before the state House of Representatives passed the bill, a rancher was found dead on his southern Arizona property, and authorities said they found tracks leading toward the border.
Everywhere, it seemed, border violence, or the specter of it, was raising its head.
In June, Brewer, speaking to a national audience on Fox News, said that Arizona “cannot afford all this illegal immigration and everything that comes with it, everything from the crime and to the drugs and the kidnappings and the extortion and the beheadings.”
Some of the violence loomed larger in debate than in reality.
FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line.
Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down.
Still, the rancher, Robert Krentz, was killed, even if a connection to an illegal border crossing has not yet been proved.
And as the law took effect, the issue had everything it needed to feed 24-hour coverage: Fears of violence, protests in the streets, a national news angle, and no shortage of people willing to sound off about it.
National coverage of the story has been nearly non-stop.
“There is an attraction with conflict,” said Greg Wise, professor of communications at Arizona State University. “And this is an issue that has captured the national attention.”
Within two hours of posting the judge’s decision on Wednesday, there were more than 6,750 comments on the Huffington Post website.
CNN, Telemundo and Fox News have been broadcasting a steady stream of images of Arizona.
Just before 4 p.m. Wednesday, the air was hot and thick with humidity at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza. The cable-network satellite trucks were nearly blanketing the Statehouse lawn.
From within an air-conditioned broadcast tent, the CNN show “John King, USA” was preparing for the first of two days of coverage from Arizona.
When the lights came on, he looked intently into the camera and said, “Good evening tonight from ground zero in the nation’s debate over illegal immigration.”
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