Migrants sell up, flee Arizona ahead of crackdown

PHOENIX Mon Jul 26, 2010 3:30pm EDT

Men wait near a train station to stow away to Mexico City after failing to enter illegally into the U.S. state of Arizona, in Hermosillo, in the Mexican state of Sonora, July 22, 2010. REUTERS/Alonso Castillo

Men wait near a train station to stow away to Mexico City after failing to enter illegally into the U.S. state of Arizona, in Hermosillo, in the Mexican state of Sonora, July 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Alonso Castillo

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - Nicaraguan mother Lorena Aguilar hawks a television set and a few clothes on the baking sidewalk outside her west Phoenix apartment block.

A few paces up the street, her undocumented Mexican neighbor Wendi Villasenor touts a kitchen table, some chairs and a few dishes as her family scrambles to get out of Arizona ahead of a looming crackdown on illegal immigrants.

"Everyone is selling up the little they have and leaving," said Villasenor, 31, who is headed for Pennsylvania. "We have no alternative. They have us cornered."

The two women are among scores of illegal immigrant families across Phoenix hauling the contents of their homes into the yard this weekend as they rush to sell up and get out before the state law takes effect on Thursday.

The law, the toughest imposed by any U.S. state to curb illegal immigration, seeks to drive more than 400,000 undocumented day laborers, landscapers, house cleaners, chambermaids and other workers out of Arizona, which borders Mexico.

It makes being an illegal immigrant a state crime and requires state and local police, during lawful contact, to investigate the status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

The U.S. government estimates 100,000 unauthorized migrants left Arizona after the state passed an employer sanctions law three years ago requiring companies to verify workers' status using a federal computer system. There are no figures for the number who have left since the new law passed in April.

Some are heading back to Mexico or to neighboring states. Others are staying put and taking their chances.

In a sign of a gathering exodus, Mexican businesses from grocers and butcher shops to diners and beauty salons have shut their doors in recent weeks as their owners and clients leave.

On Saturday and Sunday, Reuters counted dozens of impromptu yard sales in Latino neighborhoods in central and west Phoenix/

"They wanted to drive Hispanics out of Arizona and they have succeeded even before the law even comes into effect," said Aguilar, 28, a mother of three young children who was also offering a few cherished pictures and a stereo at one of five sales on the same block.

She said she had taken in just $20 as "everyone is selling and nobody wants to buy."


Arizona straddles the principal highway for human and drug smugglers heading into the United States from Mexico.

The state's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, signed the law in April in a bid to curb violence and cut crime stemming from illegal immigration.

Polls show the measure is backed by a solid majority of Americans and by 65 percent of Arizona voters in this election year for some state governors, all of the U.S. House of Representatives and about a third of the 100-seat Senate.

Opponents say the law is unconstitutional and a recipe for racial profiling. It is being challenged in seven lawsuits, including one filed by President Barack Obama's administration, which wants a preliminary injunction to block the law.

A federal judge heard arguments from the lawyers for the Justice Department and Arizona on Thursday and could rule at any time.

The fight over the Arizona law has complicated the White House's effort to break the deadlock with Republicans in Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration law, an already difficult task before November's elections.

While the law targets undocumented migrants, legal residents and their U.S.-born children are getting caught up in the rush to leave Arizona.

Mexican housewife Gabriela Jaquez, 37, said she is selling up and leaving for New Mexico with her husband, who is a legal resident, and two children born in Phoenix.

"Under the law, if you transport an illegal immigrant, you are committing a crime," she said as she sold children's clothes at a yard sale with three other families. "They could arrest him for driving me to the shops."

Lunaly Bustillos, a legal resident from Mexico, hoped to sell some clothes, dumbbells and an ornamental statue on Sunday before her family heads for Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Monday.

"It makes me sad and angry too because I feel I have the right to be here," said Bustillos, 17, who recently graduated from high school in Phoenix.

(Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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Comments (27)
abovocon wrote:
The question that has never been asked or answered. Why are we expected to let anyone and everyone in just because they have a misguided sense of entitlement. If this happened in your home you would call a cop.

Jul 26, 2010 3:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
esoclectica wrote:
I AM, legally, a Native American. I am 25% Indian, 75% European. I live in the US and expect everyone who lives here to follow the laws as currently written. Breaking immigration laws is a crime. Until legal American citizens change the law these people are criminals, and knew they were committing a crime when they broke the law.

Those people who favor allowing foreigners to ignore our immigration law claim that no one could possibly afford to deport 10 to 30 million criminal aliens. Arizona is proving that it can cause 400,000 illegal aliens to self deport very cheaply.

Jul 26, 2010 4:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
fredb3775 wrote:
One first point: Contrary to the article above, and many others, the Arizona law does not REQUIRE any law enforcement personnel to check for the validity of immigration status. It ALLOWS them to, should they CHOOSE to do so. Any requirement for checking ID is a matter of policy within a particular police department. Of course, this would all be moot with a national ID card, but that’s a completely separate debate.

At the risk of seeming pedantic, may I remind those who believe that the immigrants targeted by this law have “rights,” that they are in fact ILLEGAL (that is, NOT of LEGAL STATUS). They are willfully and knowingly BREAKING THE EXISTING LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES, even without the existence of this new Arizona statute, SB1070. They should NOT have the legal right to hide the fact that they are lawbreakers by claiming that police can’t ask them that question!

As a second generation American, I have no objections to anyone, from Mexico or anywhere else, immigrating to the USA through LEGAL channels: I welcome them with open arms, as my parents were welcomed, and embrace their diversity. I know they will make this country a better and richer place, because we are indeed a nation of immigrants.

I do not, however, support or tolerate crime. I am expected to follow laws, as a citizen of the USA – if I do not, I am subject to disciplinary action. Why should someone from another country, after climbing over a fence, be exempt from the same laws? Those who break laws are, by definition, CRIMINALS. If they believe they have a legitimate reason for fleeing their country and immigrating, they may request ASYLUM from the US government, and have that request considered openly and against known standards. Otherwise, they are criminals and should be treated as such.

Oh, and if I am asked for identification by law enforcement – I provide it, like all good citizens should. That’s all that this statute requires. It’s not exactly invasive unless one has something to hide.

-An Arizona resident (~90km from the Mexican border)

Jul 26, 2010 4:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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