Arizona v. New Mexico
Print Friendly and PDF

Here's a pretty funny article from the NYT about how much saintlier New Mexico is than (Boo! Hiss!) Arizona. It reflects the conventional wisdom that illegal immigration has virtually no real world consequences and should be thought of solely as a test of the morality of white folks, exposing who are the nice white people and who are the not nice white people.

As you read it, try to guess the real reason why there is less anti-illegal immigration sentiment in New Mexico than in Arizona.

Side by Side, but Divided Over over Immigration


ALBUQUERQUE — As the Arizona Legislature steamed ahead with the most stringent immigration enforcement bill in the country this year, this state’s House of Representatives was unanimously passing a resolution recognizing the economic benefits of illegal immigrants.

While the Arizona police will check driver’s licenses and other documents to root out illegal immigrants, New Mexico allows illegal residents to obtain driver’s licenses as a public safety measure.

And if Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, a Republican, has become, for now, the public face of tough immigration enforcement, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democrat, has told any interviewer who will listen about his effort to “to integrate immigrants that are here and make them part of society and protect the values of our Hispanic and multiethnic communities.” 

Normally in news stories, Bill Richardson is identified in these contexts as "Hispanic" (he's 3/4ths Mexican [or, to be precise, 2/4ths Mexican and 1/4th Spanish], 1/4th preppy WASP — his dad ran Citibank's office in Mexico City for decades and the politician spent his first 13 years among the Mexico City elite before going off to boarding school in New England; he spends a lot of time at Mexican beach resorts working on his Aztec Sun God look to remind Hispanic voters that he's not just another pasty white guy with a WASP name.). But, here, Richardson is described by name but not by ancestry so that he can be positioned as the Nice White Person in contrast to Jan Brewer as the Not Nice White Person.

They may sit side by side on the border, they may share historical ties to Mexico; they may have once even been part of the same territory, but Arizona and New Mexico have grown up like distant siblings.

People on all sides of the immigration debate have taken notice.

“If a burglar breaks into your home, do you serve him dinner? That is pretty much what they do there with illegals,” said State Representative John Kavanagh of Arizona, a Republican. Mr. Kavanagh is one of the staunchest supporters of the new law there, which will give the local police broad power to check the legal status of people they stop and suspect are in the country illegally.

But Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a liberal group in Washington that advocates reworking immigration law, offered New Mexico as a model of balancing a push for border security — Mr. Richardson once declared a state of emergency there — with coping with the illegal immigrants already in this country.

“Richardson has got it,” Mr. Sharry said.

Even supporters of Arizona’s law here — and there are some — agree that such a measure would never pass in New Mexico, given the outcry among legislators and immigrant advocates that the police in Arizona might detain and question Latinos who are legal residents and citizens but are mistaken for illegal immigrants


Why the difference?

First, New Mexico (population two million) has the highest percentage of Hispanics of any state — 45 percent, compared with 30 percent in Arizona (population 6.5 million), and they historically have commanded far more political power than their neighbors do. The New Mexico Legislature is 44 percent Hispanic, a contrast to the 16 percent in Arizona, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Both were once part of Mexico and, later, the same United States territory. But since they became states in 1912, New Mexico has had five Hispanic governors (including Mr. Richardson, whose mother is Mexican), and Arizona has had one, according to the group.

New Mexico’s legislators embrace the civil rights protections in the state’s Constitution — including so-called unamendable provisions akin to a Bill of Rights that historically protected Spanish-speaking citizens of the former Mexican territory — and often mount a “protective stance” toward immigrants regardless of legal status, said Christine M. Sierra, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico.

“When the community at large feels threatened, folks close ranks and join in solidarity to protect the group,” Professor Sierra said, noting that Arizona Latinos have struggled to assume the same kind of a power in a state where a greater influx of Anglos (the general term for non-Hispanic whites) over the decades has diluted their strength. ...

Finally, a clue!

Though concerns about immigration and the border arise, particularly in the southern “boot heel” of New Mexico, the burner setting is low.

“It’s not that there isn’t social tension between Hispanics and non-Hispanics,” said Jose Z. Garcia, a political scientist at New Mexico State University. “We just have learned to tolerate each other and get along.” ...

But New Mexico’s patience could be tested, and some fear that the Arizona law will push more illegal immigrants into the state, though they typically go where the most jobs are found. 

Another clue!

Richardson gets the last word in the article (and, not surprisingly, it's the N Word: "Nativist")

Mr. Richardson, who believes that illegal immigrants should pay back taxes, learn English and take other steps as a condition of getting legal status, makes no apologies for seeking to integrate them, calling them a net plus for the state.

“I just have always felt that this is part of my heritage,” he said, noting his early years spent in Mexico City. “There is a decided positive in encouraging biculturalism and people working and living together instead of inciting tension. The worry I have about Arizona is it is going to spread. It arouses the nativist instinct in people.” 

And we all know that the real problem is "the nativist instinct in people," well, at least the nativist instinct in certain people.

So, what's really going on that explains Arizona v. New Mexico? Some paragraphs in the middle of the article give hints:

The flow of drugs and illegal immigrants over the sparsely populated, remote border here, moreover, pales compared with that in Arizona, whose border, dotted with towns and roads facilitating trafficking, registers the highest number of drug seizures and arrests of illegal crossers of any state.

The estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona, whose population explosion of the past few decades has been a magnet for low-wage work, is more than eight times that of the estimated 55,000 here in Albuquerque, where the economy turns more on government, military and high-skill jobs.

In other words, there is much more illegal immigration into Arizona than into New Mexico, which is why there is much more concern about it in Arizona.

And that raises a fundamentally important question: Why don't illegal immigrants want to go to New Mexico when it's full of Hispanics and nice white people? Why do illegal immigrants prefer to go to Arizona, with its relative shortage of vibrancy and its Not Nice White People? Why, indeed, have illegals preferred states like Georgia in recent years over New Mexico?

Because New Mexico is economically stagnant and backward.

When Richardson was running for the Democratic nomination for President, on Meet the Press Tim Russert gave Richardson a hard time about his state:

"They rank states in a whole variety of categories from one being the best, 50th being the worst. This is New Mexico’s scorecard, and you are the governor. Percent of people living below the poverty line, you’re 48. Percent of children below, 48. Median family income, 47. People without health insurance, 49. Children without health insurance, 46. Teen high school dropouts, 47. Death rate due to firearms, 48. Violent crime rate, 46."

New Mexico's state motto ought to be "Thank God for Mississippi!"

And why, despite large amounts of federal spending there since the Manhattan Project, is New Mexico too economically stagnant and backward to attract many illegal aliens?

Partly, because it is so lacking in water. My vague impression is that water is in even more short supply in New Mexico than in Arizona.

But a big reason is that, with Santa Fe having been founded by conquistadors in 1609, New Mexico is backward for much the same reason Old Mexico is: all that vibrant Hispanic culture, 401 years of it, has left New Mexico backward.

So, why does the NYT want to turn the rest of America into New New Mexico?

Think of it from the perspective of poor Mexican illegal immigrants: Once all of America turns into Greater New Mexico, would-be illegal immigrants from Old Mexico will have nowhere to go! Think of the Old Mexicans!

Print Friendly and PDF