On April 23, 2010 Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law SB1070. From that moment on, Arizona and the rest of the country solidified its hard swing to the right. The Arizona law provided a corner stone to the national Tea Party movement and an all-encompassing anti-immigrant mood.
In 2010 Arizona was a model for anti-immigrant legislation. One year later Arizona is comparatively wimpy in its anti-immigrant front and even shows faint hints of how the pendulum is moving away from the extreme.
At the societal level, the Tucson tragedy jolted Arizonans into realizing the grave dangers of extremism. At the governmental level we saw Governor Brewer loose the spotlight and Republican state senators cross party lines in the spirit of moderation. On the political front, in 2011 the Arizona legislature failed to pass five bills that encompassed the newest anti-immigrant agenda. On the judicial front, the implementation SB 1070 has stalled. The Ninth Circuit court recently upheld the district court's injunction to stop implementation of the most controversial portions of the law. One year later Arizonans are realizing that moderation may not be such a bad thing.
Governor Jan Brewer had the best year of her political life in 2010. In early 2010 the sitting governor was struggling in the polls for her party's nomination. However after signing SB1070 her approval ratings skyrocketed and she coasted in to re-election. On top of the electoral slam-dunk, Brewer became a celebrity in her own right. Governor Brewer even got props from Sarah Palin, who pointed out that the Arizona governor had more "cojones" than President Obama.
Today, Governor Brewer is not feeling the same kind of love. Over $100 million has been squeezed out of the state economy as a direct result of SB 1070. Arizona businesses are suffering and they are putting the pressure on elected officials to put an end to the anti-immigrant/anti-business climate. Prior to the 2010 election the Arizona business community had no choice but to keep quite and fall in behind Governor Brewer, the public's champion. Now, the continued economic bleeding has drained Arizona businesses and they are not keeping quite.
During the 2011 legislative session the Arizona legislature considered half a dozen bills that made SB 1070 look like the DREAM ACT. A few notable examples are SB 1308: interstate compact; birth certificates (requiring that birth certificates differentiate between people who are born subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and requires governors who enter into the compact to enforce the birth certificate differentiation); SB 1309: Arizona citizenship (requiring that at least one parent be a U.S. citizen in order for a child to receive Arizona citizenship); SB 1405: Hospital admissions; restrictions (requiring that hospital admissions personnel are required to verify a person's legal status before admitting the person for nonemergency treatment); SB 1407: schools; data; noncitizen students (requiring Arizona public schools to collect data from students who cannot prove residence in the United States); and SB 1611: immigration omnibus (making it unlawful for an undocumented person to receive any public service. e.g. a vehicle title, university admission, public housing, etc.).
The 2011 anti-immigrant legislative agenda sought to not only marginalize and criminalize undocumented persons but implicate their citizen family members. Anchor babies were of primary interest in most of these bills. The targeting of immigrants from 2010 grew into an assault on their sons and daughters.
It's not surprising that 2011 anti-immigrant agenda was lead by Sen. Russell Pearce the primary author of SB 1070 but ultimately the agenda was derailed by Senate Republicans who joined Democrats in defeating the proposed legislation. Arizona had the opportunity to underscore its anti-immigrant credentials and it did not.
In the wake of the anti-immigrant legislative agenda failure came the further weakening of SB 1070. The weakening was not so much legal as it was political. At over $1.5 million in legal fees, the defense of SB 1070 is tiring already economically weary Arizonans. Add to that, the estimated law enforcement costs of actually enforcing SB 1070 and arresting, processing, and housing thousands of suspected lawbreakers. Governor Brewer may very well appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. However, the SB 1070 fight is one that is loosing public opinion support the more the reality of the human and economic costs are felt by Arizona tax payers.
All extremes are bad. In the case of Arizona, the anti-immigrant extreme was societally, economically and politically unsustainable. The state made a splash with SB 1070 one year ago. On the eve of the first anniversary of SB 1070 Arizona is once again a model of anti-immigrant legislation, but in its failures. Arizona's course over the past year has demonstrated the dangers of such extreme anti-immigrant policies. Arizona is a case in point in how the policy pendulum has started its slide away from the anti-immigrant extreme.
Follow Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrVMDS