They're not being good neighbors
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 8, 2005
A tree that lives in an arroyo bottom is tough.

It weathers flash floods, droughts and exposure to searing heat.

But with deep roots, tough skin and a will to live, the tree hangs in there and continues.

That tree is Phoenix.

Phoenix and its neighborhoods are in constant flux absorbing wave after wave of immigrants, developments and cultural changes that are bending the city but not yet breaking it. Still, especially in west, central and south Phoenix, the situation is tough.

Many would have you believe that every ill the city deals with, such as crime and overcrowding, is the fault of callous, careless undocumented immigrants. They're wrong. Most immigrants, as President Bush says often, are good people looking for a way to improve their lives.

Whether people admit it or not, the Arizona economy - your favorite hotel or new housing development - needs them. Arizona business is addicted to them. They are drywallers, dishwashers and dry-cleaners.

They contribute to our economy and our cultural diversity.

And I don't think the diversity is what rankles many Phoenix residents - at least those who are really perturbed by illegal immigration and the undocumented who are moving into their neighborhoods.

The e-mails and phone calls I've received and conversations I've had with residents - Arizona-born Latinos and Anglos - have to deal with respect. They tell me that when immigrants, legal or not, move in next door or down the street, they don't acclimate themselves to their new surroundings.

Basically, the new guys on the block behave and live like they are still in the little Mexican ranch town they came from and not as if they live in Phoenix, USA. The immigrants play their music too loud, they're not that friendly, they have parties and don't invite neighbors, and they're always working on their cars in the front yard.

I've heard the complaints over and over again, and longtime residents have a good point.

One guy told me that he was angry that he couldn't buy an ice-cream cone in his neighborhood anymore, and he blamed immigrants.

"Teclo, they closed down the Dairy Queen and turned it into a taco place," the Maryvale man said.

Hey, I hear you. I love a dip cone any time of the day. I'm not trying to make light of his situation, but these are many examples of friction that are causing people to get hot under the collar.

Residents don't like strangers taking over their neighborhoods and imposing different standards on them. Some immigrants don't care about neighbors and their new world. Getting to Phoenix and finding work is their only goal.

Others are not so callous, especially those with families. They send their kids to school, try to keep a tidy home and invest in their neighborhoods. I've heard from good people like this, too.

But that's what people ought to be doing. When I lived in England, I was a proud American. A Yank, they called me. However, I did my best to learn all I could about the Brits, was careful not to make any cultural faux pas and took an interest in that culture.

Taking in what I heard at a recent neighborhood meeting in west Phoenix, the popular sentiment from longtime Phoenix residents is that immigrants are not showing a healthy respect for their new country. In short: they are not being good neighbors.

And in life, especially if you're a deep-rooted tree not going anywhere, you need good neighbors.

Teclo Garcia is the editor of ĦExtra! and an assistant city editor at The Republic. Contact him at (602) 444-8281, or