Arizona wasn't always known for its harsh policies against illegal immigration, say Anna Gorman and Nicholas Riccardi in the Los Angeles Times. Just six years ago, "this border state was among the nation's most welcoming of illegal immigrants." Its two Republicans senators were strong advocates for legalizing millions of illegal residents across the country, and then-governor Janet Napolitano "boasted of her warm relationships" with leaders across the border in Mexico. Now Gov. Jan Brewer is fighting to keep courts from overturning a state law designed to drive out illegal immigrants, Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain have changed their minds about legalizing undocumented immigrants, and "Mexican governors refuse to set foot on Arizona soil." How did Arizona change so quickly? Here, an excerpt:
"The perfect storm occurred," said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. "There was a combination of demographic changes, the introduction of a criminal element that didn't used to be here and the drop in the economy, which has put everyone on edge"....
The [illegal immigrant] population increased after the federal government stepped up enforcement along the California border, slowing illegal crossings with more agents and a massive fence. That pushed traffic east — to the mountains and deserts of Arizona. The boom in construction in Arizona also brought illegal immigrants, changing the makeup of cities and creating unease among longtime residents....
[Another] factor influencing the state in profound ways was President Obama's decision to name Napolitano his secretary of Homeland Security.
[Stan] Barnes, [a] Republican lobbyist, said the popular Democratic governor had "a dampening effect on activism on illegal immigration issues."
"If Janet Napolitano were still governor, 1070 would not be law," Barnes said. "Because she's not governor and Jan Brewer is governor, 1070 is law, and now the earthquake is being felt nationwide and worldwide."
Read the full article in the Los Angeles Times.
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