Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona immigration law ignores migrant deaths

Margaret Regan knows the Arizona border tensions up close. The Tucson journalist has written on migration from Mexico over the past decade and has poured her experience into “The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands,” published by Beacon Press in February. The book focuses on Josseline Hernandez, a 14-year-old girl whose death during her crossing underscores the danger and chaos in the region. Regan believes Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration overlooks a serious problem: the rising number of migrant deaths.

By Margaret Regan

When Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s harshest anti-immigration law on Friday, she declared that federal policy had left the state dealing with “an unacceptable situation."

That’s about the only thing she got right when she unleashed a law that gives the police unprecedented powers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

Brewer misidentified the real problem. To her, what’s unacceptable is that as many as 600,000 illegal immigrants are living in Arizona. What she should really be worried about is the deaths of some 2,000 border crossers in the Arizona desert in the past 10 years.

Since the year 2000, the state has been ground zero for immigration. Migrants from Mexico and Central America used to take safer routes through big cities like El Paso and San Diego, but the federal government cracked down on those urban crossings in the mid-90s. After that, migration shifted to the dangerous open terrain in between -- that is, to Arizona.

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