Eighteen years ago my wife and I moved to Arizona. Coming from Seattle and arriving in August we thought we had entered hell. (Have you ever been to Phoenix in August? If so, you'll understand.) We knew Arizona was largely a conservative state and for many years we were quite comfortable with that. In the past few years my views have become more progressive while it seems the politicians in Arizona seem to grow increasingly conservative (though perhaps it only seems that way because my own perspective has shifted.) There are many good things about Arizona and I should probably take the time to write an article about those. But at the moment I must say that the political leaders of my state continue to take actions that embarrass me and make me ashamed to be an Arizonan.
I wrote earlier this summer about the now infamous SB1070. Thankfully the Supreme Court of the United States negated most of the provisions of that bill, though some unfortunately continue to linger. Meanwhile the also infamous SheriffJoe Arpaio of Maricopa County (the county in which the city of Phoenix and most of Arizona's population lie) continues to spout his hard-line conservative rhetoric while being investigated by the federal government for policies and practices of his department over the years. As if he didn't have enough to do enforcing the laws in the county, he pushed the state Attorney General to launch yet another investigation into Barack Obama's birth certificate. I do not understand why our Attorney General even bothered to give Arpaio's query any attention, yet it fits within the weird world of Arizona politics.
Our current governor Jan Brewer leads this pack of conservative nut cases. She seems determined to take any and every action she can to thumb her nose at the federal government and in the process cement Arizona's reputation as a bunch of knee-jerk reactionary conservatives. In her latest pronouncement in response to the new policy of the Obama administration to allow children of illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria to apply for temporarily defer any threat of deportation, Brewer issued a state executive order instructing all state agencies to deny benefits and services to these young people. She claimed that the state could not afford to provide these benefits to them. I don't know what injury some immigrant did to Governor Brewer in her past, but she obviously has some deep-seated antipathy toward anyone who doesn't meet her definition of a true American and true Arizonan. I wish she would be honest enough to admit that she just doesn't like illegal immigrants instead of couching her actions in language that speaks of the economic burden such people will place on the state. Rather than posing an economic burden, the young people eligible for deferment of deportation under the new policy would likely contribute to our state's economy. They have education and initiative. They bring new life and energy to our state. Rather than denying them any benefits, we should be welcoming them.
Governor Brewer is demagoging, playing on the emotions and fears of people in our state which has been hard-hit by the economic recession. Rather than dealing with real issues, she has chosen to blame the state's problems almost exclusively on illegal immigration. In this she and those who support her see things too simplistically. While illegal immigration does create problems in Arizona and elsewhere, it also creates opportunity: opportunity for the immigrants themselves who are mostly looking for a chance at a slightly-better life, opportunity for our state and country in the energy and labor of these new immigrants and opportunity for the rest of us to choose to show kindness and hospitality to the foreigners among us rather than to treat them as pariahs and seek to exclude and expel them from our country. When we do the latter we act contrary to the values that God instructed us to live by.
Governor Brewer, as a citizen and voter of Arizona, I call on you to adopt a different approach and attitude toward illegal immigrants. I respectfully yet strongly request that you rescind your embarrassing and immoral executive order excluding children of illegal immigrants – youth who wil now be able to live and work in our country – from any benefits in our great state. Your actions and your words dishonor our state and the people who strive to make it a better place for all who live here. Should you continue your current course, you can count on me voting against you in the next election and actively speaking against your policies in the meantime. You do not represent my views but instead you bring shame on us.