Political climate concerns
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 10, 2005

 Latino leader sees negative tension

Yvonne Wingett
Arizona's ethnic and political groups are becoming increasingly polarized, and that worries one of the nation's leading Latinos.

Proposition 200 and several current bills aimed at easing public frustration with illegal immigration have created bitterness between Anglos and Hispanics, said Raul Yzaguirre, former CEO of civil rights organization National Council of La Raza.

"The fact of the matter is, there's a pattern here of anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic and a xenophobic attitude," said Yzaguirre, now a presidential professor of practice in community development and civil rights in Arizona State University's College of Public Programs.

"I see us heading in a very negative way, a very polarizing way, one that increases tensions between different ethnicities."

Several bills progressing in the Legislature would deny public housing and publicly funded child care, among other services, to undocumented immigrants.

Other bills would ban publicly funded day-labor centers and require immigrants to pay out-of-state college tuition.

Their sponsors and supporters said they are necessary to ease the cost to taxpayers and to discourage illegal immigration.

But the increasingly shrill rhetoric denouncing conservative Republican lawmakers at Tuesday's 25-mile march from Mesa to downtown Phoenix lends credence to Yzaguirre's concerns.

The Dignity Walk began with 300 marchers and picked up crowds along the way - at Arizona State University, the non-profit Tonatierra in Phoenix and the state Capitol, where more than 500 gathered to rally against the proposed legislation.

Marches, protests and a groundswell of political mobilization by immigrants and other Hispanics will grow if some of the bills pass, Yzaguirre predicts.

"The impact will grow, (and) I think it will gain momentum."

Yzaguirre is expected to meet with Gov. Janet Napolitano in May, her staff said.

He will urge her to oppose any sort of English-only legislation, he said, just as George W. Bush did when he was governor of Texas.

"As a moderate Democrat, I would expect her to do just as much as an ultraconservative Republican," Yzaguirre said.

"It's a no-brainer. We're in a hemisphere where more than two-thirds of the hemisphere speaks a language other than English."

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-4712 or yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com.