THE BLOG
06/28/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Arizona & Citizenship --- Some Historical Context

Arizona's Governor and the legislators who support the Arizona Immigration Bill disavow any intention or likelihood of racial discrimination or harassment, but the historical record indicates otherwise. They assure us that the rights of all Arizona citizens will be fully respected regardless of race or ethnic background, but the historical record indicates otherwise. They promise that non-white citizens will be treated with courtesy, respect, and dignity, but the historical record indicates otherwise. For example:

When the United States defeated Mexico in 1848, the Mexicans living in the newly annexed territories became Mexican-Americans. Under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Congress was required to pass legislation making them full U.S. citizens. This was done as part of the bills that admitted the various new states to the union. But Arizona avoided being admitted to the union until 1912. During the 64 years that Arizona was a territory, generations of Mexican-Americans were required to obey all federal, state, and local laws and pay taxes, but with their citizenship in limbo they could not vote for the politicians who passed those laws and taxes. Nor were they allowed to vote for the authorities who adjudicated their pre-1848 land, water, and mineral rights. Even after Arizona finally allowed itself to become a state and Latinos gained the legal right to vote, widespread denial of voting rights continued. So much so that Arizona was (and continues to be) one of those states specifically called out by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Native-Americans comprise a significant portion of Arizona's population. Native Americans in Arizona were required to pay taxes, obey all laws, and submit to the draft, but under the quaint theory that they were citizens of "sovereign Indian nations" (meaning the reservations) they were not considered United States citizens when it came to the right to vote. Congress finally got around to correcting this injustice in 1924. Arizona politicians then quickly enacted state legislation designed to nullify the federal effort to grant full Indian citizenship and continue denying voting rights to Arizona's Native-American population. It was not until 1948 that the federal courts over-turned state laws that explicitly denied Native people the right to vote. So for 100 years after Arizona became part of America, native people in Arizona had all the obligations of citizenship, but not all of the rights.

To this day, there continues to be widespread, frequent, and consistent complaints of race and ethnic-based discrimination, police harassment, judicial misconduct, and racial profiling from Arizona's non-white population. It should come as no surprise then that those familiar with Arizona's history treat the pious assurances of its politicians with a great deal of skepticism.

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