Because I grew up in Santa Monica and then set up camp at Oberlin, Arizona is probably the most conservative place I've ever called home. Case in point: I wore my Obama shirt on inauguration day (nothing flashy, just a grey T with his gorgeous face and "Yes We Did") and as I was walking downtown a woman on the street glared at me and shouted, "Don't be rude!" People are far worse when it comes to migration, illegal or otherwise. Many studies have shown that communities near the border tend to be more intolerant of migration than their farther-north brethren. Not that people elsewhere are particularly compassionate. It's more a question of indifference. Out of sight, out of mind. I don't see the migrant who picks my $1.99 strawberries or smuggles my drugs across the border, so I don't really think about it all that much.
But down on the border, indifference often hardens into outright discrimination. A quote from a Texan local politician in yesterday's New York Times read: "The people who come here illegally across the border are not educated people," Ms. Richardson said. "They don't have any culture or any respect for ours."
Worse still is the cover article of this week's Tucson Weekly, which rails against "illegals" for "dumping" trash in the Arizona desert while crossing. The writer longs for the desert's "pre-invasion beauty," and reinforces racist stereotypes such as migrants bringing diseases into the U.S. and Latin American men as sexual predators. Yes, the water bottles and backpacks left in the desert are a problem, but let's place blame where blame is due. U.S. policies cause migration and more U.S. policies push the migration out into the desert. Let's not let people play on our environmental sensibilities as they dehumanize (the article basically calls migrants animals) and demonize migrants.