Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Xenophobia will continue to re-surface in our [state] unless and until government finds long-term solutions to this very serious problem which seems to be a result of some of the poor, the desperate and the unemployed taking matters of government into their own hands.
Given the anti-immigrant fervor sweeping Arizona and the US this quote could have been uttered by a local politician or activist. In actuality, this is a statement by African Christian Democratic Party Gauteng leader Lydia Meshoe as quoted in today’s Times Live from Johannesburg, South Africa. The online newspaper goes on to say, “Sixteen people, mostly foreign nationals, were attacked at Kya Sands informal settlement north of Johannesburg in the past few days.”
Hmmm… this is not unlike actions of the neo-Nazis vigilantes patrolling Pinal County, is it? (OK, they haven’t shot anyone that we know of, but they’re armed and ready.) Why are we as a country sliding backward from racial equality and tolerance for “the other”?
I blame extremist politicians and media personalities who twist the facts.. and sometimes just plain lie (1, 2). I’m not going into how irresponsible and destructive Faux News celebrities like Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly are but instead will focus on Arizona politicians’ lies and the related facts.
Arizona’s Republican politicians– particularly those running for office– have been fanning the flames of xenophobia to further their political careers. Unelected Republican Governor Jan Brewer, septuagenarian Senator John McCain and his senatorial sidekick Joh Kyl, and Arizona Legislator Russel “Father of SB1070” Pearce are four politicians who obviously do not employ fact-checkers.
A few weeks ago, Brewer made headlines when she accused most border crossers of being drug dealers and talked about beheadings in the desert. (For a video, try this link.) Presented with the facts, she tried to mumble her way out of it. Although McCain flip-flops on multiple issues with impunity, recently he and Kyl have been beating the border enforcement and fear drums, along with Right-Wing Anchor Baby Pearce, who has no need for facts in his rhetoric.
So where is the truth? In yesterday’s part 1 on The Rest of the Story, I quoted several polls that show most Americans favor comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship. Today, I’ll offer some statistics to debunk the lies being told by politicians who hope to capitalize on your fear.
40 people have died in the desert since July 1, 2010. Pima County’s Medical Examiner is quoted as saying, this could be “the deadliest month of all time.” These people are not ranchers or drug dealers; they are undocumented border crossers– los desconocidos– the unknown dead who come to the US everyday for work and a new life. According to the No More Deaths website, 153 have died in the desert since October 1, 2009.
Ironically, although more people are dying in the desert this year, fewer people are crossing the border illegally. According to the Arizona Daily Star, “Apprehensions in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector have decreased each of the past five years; remittances to Mexico have declined and anecdotal reports show the economic recession has slowed illegal immigration. Yet more people are dying than ever.”
Brewer, McCain, and others have blamed undocumented border crossers for beheadings, home invasions, murders, and kidnappings. In actuality, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the violent crime rate in Arizona has been decreasing since it peaked in 1993. (It will be interesting to see if Arizona’s violent crime rate increases after the new “Constitutional” Carry law goes into effect next week.)
Again, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics, Tucson ranks 38th in crime— far behind heartland cities like Columbus, Ohio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Many US citizens are heavily armed, and people get shot everyday. As this blogger points out, when someone is shot in DC, no one calls for thousands of troupes to be deployed.
Unfortunately, in US politics, facts don’t matter much, and according to a research study reported by National Public Radio (NPR), people don’t generally change their minds– even when presented with facts. Sigh.