Two separate reports were released this weekend documenting the troubling effects of Arizona’s new immigration law, SB-1070, on race relations in the state. First, a poll by the Arizona Republic revealed that nearly half, or 46 percent, of Arizonans think the immigration debate has “exposed a deeper sense of racism in our community”:
In The Republic’s telephone poll of 616 adults, conducted statewide between June 30 and July 12, nearly half of respondents — 48 percent — said Latinos are more likely to be discriminated against compared with non-Latinos than they were six months ago. More than a third of respondents disagreed. The rest did not know or had no opinion.
Nearly half of Arizonans also believe the immigration debate has revealed racial problems here and that Latinos are more likely to have their legal status questioned than they were at the start of the year, the poll indicates. […] Non-Hispanics were nearly evenly divided about whether people are more likely now to wonder about the legal status of those who look Latino than they were six months ago. By comparison, 72 percent of Hispanics agreed.
The East Valley Tribune also reports that “[w]hite supremacist activity is on the rise in Arizona.” Experts point to the fact that the immigration debate has always been a recruiting tool for racist groups, even before the passage of SB-1070. However, heightened tensions over the polarizing new law give the groups a leg up. “They become more emboldened every day,” said Bill Straus, Arizona regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. “It does seem like the distance between what most of us would consider the extreme fringes of political thought and the mainstream of political thought, it seems like that distance has shrunk.”
One of the most disturbing illustrations of their stepped-up activity is the presence of heavily armed neo-Nazis who started patrolling the border in search of undocumented immigrants shortly after SB-1070 was signed into law. One neo-Nazi border “ranger,” Harry Hughes, has written: “Mexican illegal aliens are revolting. And they know it. It is their purpose to disrupt us, interfere with us and give us diseases that we haven’t had in this country for 100 years.” The leader of the group, J.T. Ready responded to Judge Susan Bolton’s decision to block key provisions of the by stating, “perhaps [Judge Bolton] should step her ass outside the air-conditioned courtroom sometime and see what is really happening as Rome burns and barbarians with AK-47s are in gun battles twenty miles from the gates of Phoenix.” State Sen. Russell Pearce, who sponsored SB-1070, endorsed Ready when the he ran for City Council in the spring of 2006. Ready describes his newest initiative as “the Minuteman Project on steroids”
SB-1070 enjoys high levels of support amongst members of the National Socialist Movement. However, the majority of SB-1070 supporters are not neo-Nazis. What’s troubling is that despite the widespread belief that SB-1070 will lead to increased racism and racial profiling, the majority of Arizonans still support it.