Some wary of potential rise in anti-Hispanic sentiment
Arizona Daily Star

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

As the Latino population in Tucson becomes the majority, some fear anti-immigrant sentiment will grow into a backlash against all Latinos.

Historically, minority growth has been met with opposition, which some say already is being manifested in the form of anti-immigrant political stances and even state laws.

Census projections say Latinos will make up 50 percent of Tucson's population by 2015.

"There is no dominant group that willingly gives up power and authority in this country," said Celestino Fernandez, a University of Arizona sociology professor and former provost and vice-president. "When people perceive a threat to themselves, they start lashing out at others and try to take away the rights of others, and that's what we have now."

Fernandez cited the passing of last year's English-only law and Prop. 300, which targeted undocumented college and adult-education students, as well as 2004's Prop. 200, which called for two forms of government-issued ID to use government-funded resources and public services as examples of statewide anti-Latino backlash.

"It's becoming Latino equals immigrant, which equals illegal," he said. "So every Latino or person with a Spanish surname comes under suspicion."

A recent University of Cincinnati report said Latinos were most likely to be cited, searched and arrested when stopped by Arizona Department of Public Safety officers in 2006, mirroring the findings of a Daily Star investigation four years earlier.

Fernandez said a lack of historical understanding helps fuel anti-Latino sentiment in Tucson, recalling the temporary removal of Mexican and U.S. flags at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in October, due to complaints and death threats against the museum's animals.

"(The Mexican) flag has been flying above the museum for more than 50 years," he said. "The Arizona-Sonoran desert knows no political boundaries and the animals in that desert don't see those lines either."

Nationally, hate crimes against Latinos are at an all-time high, according to FBI statistics though in Tucson, hate crimes are exceptionally low.

In 2005, 13 hate crimes motivated by race or ethnicity were reported to local police. Last year it dropped to three.

Investigators don't keep track of how many hate crimes were committed against any specific race or ethnicity, said Sgt. Mark Robinson, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.

However, none of the five hate crimes reported this year targeted Latinos, he said.