Some of the criticism I’ve heard recently, concerning Arizona’s new law confronting the state’s illegal immigration crisis, don’t carry much weight with me. For instance, it’s said that Hispanics living in Arizona will now be compelled, by the authorities, to “show their papers” in order to prove that they are living in the country legally, and that, for Hispanics, this will make living in Arizona something akin to living in a police state. But the truth is that Hispanics living anywhere within the southwestern United States have always been compelled by the authorities to “show their papers”, when necessary, in order to prove that they are living in this country legally.
Having both lived in and traveled extensively throughout the southwestern United States, I probably have a much clearer insight regarding this issue than do most Americans, especially all of those talking head commentators who live and work in Washington, D. C. I mean, when was the last time any of them actually saw or crossed the U. S.-Mexico border—up close and personal? I’ve done many times, most recently in the twin gritty border towns of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora Mexico, which is nothing at all like the more popular tourist cities of Cancun or Mazatlan.
Nogales, Sonora is a violent city. Like other border towns, Nogales is caught-up in the corrupt Mexican government’s on-going war with the Mexican drug cartels. I’ve actually spent a considerable amount of time in the U.S/ Mexico border region. I lived in El Paso, Texas for four years (during the late eighties) and, most recently, I spent a year and a half living in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve visited many towns along the Mexican border with the United States (la frontera): Matamoros, Cuidad Acuna, Presidio, Cuidad Juarez, and Nogales. In the border towns, for many years now, it’s been commonplace to see heavily armed military troops and police clashing with the cartels and to expect cartel related violence to erupt at any time. Not to mention the many stories you hear from the locals about the latest hits, assassinations, and violent shootouts that have recently occurred.
From my observations of the border region—from the mid 1980’s until today—the U. S. Border Patrol has greatly improved its protection of the U. S./Mexico border. But considering the task they are faced with—the border region being a vast, empty desert that is 1,700 miles long—they still have a long way to go. The fact that Arizona now wants to ensure its citizen's protection, in addition to the protection already provided by the overworked U. S. Border Patrol is, I think, quite reasonable.