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Hope vs. Fear in Arizona

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Thanks to bottom-up organizing by Latino immigrants, 2022 will feature a showdown between inclusion and nativism


Immigrant youth and their allies won a big victory in Arizona yesterday. The Arizona House of Representatives passed legislation to place a referendum on the 2022 ballot that would make undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition rates at state universities.

Much of the credit goes to organizations such as Aliento and the tenacity of leaders such as Reyna Montoya and Jose Patiño. As Montoya stated yesterday, “I’m in tears of joy and have a deep sense of gratitude for all the house of representatives who voted yes … Thank you for believing in our dreamers…”

The context matters. Arizona is shifting from red to purple to blue. In 2020, Arizona voted for Joe Biden and elected Democrat Mark Kelly to the U.S. Senate to join Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. As Mother Jones reporter Fernanda Echavarri wrote, “Arizona’s slow leftward march is a result of a decade of grassroots work by Latinx organizers and activists – not necessarily to support the Democratic Party, but to protect their own community. A generation of Latinos was galvanized when Arizona passed SB 1070 in 2010.” 

And as Grant Woods, a former Republican Arizona Attorney General and Chief of Staff to Republican Senator John McCain stated, “I think Arizona going blue so fast shows that Republicans are on the wrong side of demographic trends and history. There is no long-term future in bigotry or xenophobia.” 

Despite these trends, many Arizona Republicans are already running hard on anti-immigrant politics. For example, Governor Doug Ducey has been stoking fear around the border, recently deploying National Guard troops and trying to pin blame on rising numbers of apprehensions and encounters at the border which started under Trump on President Biden. And the national GOP has been getting into the act, with the NRSC running a new anti-immigrant attack ad against Senator Mark Kelly, who again will be on the ballot in 2022.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, 

The battle between hope and fear is on display in Arizona. Young activists are hoping and fighting for a chance to attend college so they can contribute to the dynamism of their home state. Meanwhile, GOP politicians are stirring fear of ‘the other’ in hopes of clinging to power. 

We stand with hope and with those courageous enough to turn hope and dreams into breakthroughs and opportunities. The organizing of Reyna, Jose, and countless others helped pass this important legislation. We celebrate from afar alongside them.

The 2022 election is taking shape as a stark battle between hope and fear. It seems increasingly clear that Arizona Republicans will constrict voting rights, gerrymander districts and demonize immigrants in their quest for political dominance. Meanwhile, Mark Kelly, Latino organizers and the multiracial majority that is turning the state blue will stand up for educational opportunity, economic recovery and immigrants.

Arizona has long been ground zero in the nation’s immigration debate. It seems poised to reprise that role in 2022. It is in the interest of all of us across the nation to make sure the good guys win.