In April 2010, Arizona enacted the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, better known as Senate Bill 1070.
But what would make an officer believe that someone was illegally in the country?
For its opponents, it codified and provided legal cover for racial profiling, which continues to be a problem.
For its supporters, SB 1070 has tackled the issue of illegal immigration in a way that Washington would not. The law was a state-level response to a national issue that had stalled in Congress. He sought to break the federal gridlock and show the nation that if Congress doesn’t tackle immigration reform, Arizona will.
Ten years later, the law has played a role in shrinking the size of the state’s undocumented population and unquestionably reshaped Arizona politics. It may also have influenced the political rise of President Donald Trump.
In this season of Rediscover, we’ll trace the story of SB 1070: how it happened, who championed it, and why it still matters a decade later.
We’ll talk to former Governor Jan Brewer, SB 1070 architect Russell Pearce, senior Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema, and young Latino and immigrant activists whose lives have been forever shaped by legislation.
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Available now: In the early 2000s, Arizona’s rapid population growth and investor speculation fueled a homebuilding frenzy in the state.
Contractors took advantage of a lax employment verification system and hired undocumented workers at a reduced rate, often from Mexico, en masse.
At its peak, Arizona had the second-largest undocumented population proportionally of any state in the country, behind only Nevada. About one in 12 inhabitants was undocumented.
Consumers and businesses appreciated cheap labor. But not everyone liked the changing demographics of their neighborhoods.
State lawmakers have attempted to address the issue, but critics have called the attempts piecemeal. Congress repeatedly failed to pass immigration reform.
An economic recession, a dramatic citizen’s arrest and a tragic death have heightened tensions.
Click here for a transcript of part one.
Available now: The North American Free Trade Act of 1993, or NAFTA, put about 2 million Mexican farmers out of business. Food prices in Mexico have gone up, while wages, after adjusting for inflation, have gone down.
The aftermath of NAFTA and skyrocketing unemployment due to the peso crisis prompted many Mexicans to head north to the United States in search of a better life.
But with more people looking for opportunities in the United States, smugglers known as coyotes saw a lucrative opportunity. One in which vulnerable migrants would be exploited for the ray of hope they believed was possible in Arizona.
Those who traveled to Arizona, however, encountered hostile state lawmakers bent on squandering any potential path to prosperity that might have existed for migrants. These same lawmakers confused migrants with exploitative smugglers. Latino citizens already living in Arizona have suffered the wrath of discriminatory legislation, racial profiling by police, and racist behavior from their peers.
Click here for a transcript of part two.
Available now: For two decades and across three administrations, Arizonans have waited for the federal government to fix the problem that many thought was on their doorstep. They found themselves without a solution.
Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all tried to push forward immigration reform. They did not succeed.
The unsolved murder of a Cochise County rancher, which was pinned on undocumented immigrants by authorities and covered in the media, has escalated hostilities.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1070 had passed both Arizona houses and was sitting on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk. Political pressure weighed on the governor, who had to think about her next bid for re-election.
She could sign it, veto it, or let it pass by default without her signature. No one, not even her closest staff, knew what she would do.
Click here for a transcript of Part Three.
Available now: As national leaders weighed in on passing Senate Bill 1070, on the ground in Arizona it was already emptying quarters. The grim exodus unfolded quietly across the state.
For the rest of the country, the law served as a stage for laughter and spectacle.
Images of Arizona as a racist, backward state have not helped its economy.
Within weeks of the law being signed, the state’s tourism industry had at least two dozen canceled events. A Scottsdale consulting firm estimated that in the four months since the bill took effect, Arizona missed $141 million in conferences that were canceled. It also cost the state about 2,700 jobs during that time.
When SB 1070 faced legal challenges, Governor Jan Brewer had no questions about what she would do next. Its legal team appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court.
But the immigrant rights community in Arizona is not done fighting. They started to organize.
Click here for a transcript of Part Four.
Available now: Arizona Senate Bill 1070 took years of effort culminating in a moment when the Legislature, Governor and public – spurred on by a horrific murder – agreed to do something about immigration illegal, even if the White House and Congress could not.
Closer to the time of its passage, SB 1070 was popular and was a good way to win elections in Arizona. Russell Pearce, Jan Brewer and John McCain were all re-elected to extremist positions in 2010.
For better or worse, the act reshaped Arizona politics and set an example for others on the political power of nativism and border security.
But Latino and migrant communities, most directly affected by these policies, have pushed back.
It is a law that has galvanized a new generation of activists. Combined with Arizona’s rapid growth among transplants and Latinos, this has helped make the state a political battleground in the 2020 election year. It’s a sea change for a state that was faithfully red in presidential elections for most of the past 64 years.
Today, running against SB 1070 and the politics of oppression is a good way to win an election in Arizona, even if the White House wants to change all that.
Click here for a transcript of Part Five.