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  • Research Note: Issues of Production vs. Reproduction/Maintenance Revisited: Towards an Understanding of Arizona’s Immigration Policies
  • Tamar Diana Wilson

The subject of international immigration has been a topic in which anthropologists have historically shown great interest. Especially since the 1970s and 1980s anthropologists in the United States have studied the dynamics of immigration and the patterns of adaptation of immigrants from around the world. In order to understand patterns and processes of immigration and emigration, it is often necessary to look at the “atmosphere” of anti- or pro-immigrant sentiment in the receiving area. Propositions initiated and passed, and laws suggested in legislatures, whether on the state or federal level in the United States, reflect biases for or against immigrants. Sometimes, however, legislation is contradictory, or seemingly so. Seemingly contradictory polices become less paradoxical if it is remembered that many immigrants are welcomed because they are cheap labor and because they fill jobs in what one author has called “the underbelly of the American dream” (Annerino 1999:26)—jobs to which natives are not attracted to because they are dirty, dangerous, and/or underpaid. In the following pages I will look at the anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona, as well as an apparently pro-immigrant initiative in order to show how capitalist economies are more ready to accept immigrants if they can avoid paying the “social wages” [End Page 713] of unemployment and retirement benefits and medical and educational costs of immigrants’ dependents. Anthropologists working with immigrant populations might wish to explore whether the same constraints are apparent in the group(s) they work with.

Between 2004 and June, 2005, the Arizona legislature sponsored 20 antiimmigrant bills (Veranes and Navarro 2005). More were to be introduced in the following years. Seemingly in contradiction, in early 2008 the legislature was also considering a guest-worker program due to the shortage of labor.

The first piece of anti-immigrant legislation was passed by 56 percent of the voters on November 2, 2004. Proposition 200, spearheaded by a group called “Protect Arizona Now,” in league with the Federation for American Immigrant Reform (FAIR), known as an “anti-immigrant organization with white supremacist ties” (Veranes and Navarro 2005:1), was similar to California’s 1994 Proposition 187 in several ways. First, in the introduction to the text of California’s Proposition 187 it is declared “that they have suffered and are suffering economic hardship caused by the presence of illegal aliens in the state” (Proposition 187, 1994: Section 1). In the introduction to Arizona’s Proposition 200 it is stated: “This state finds that illegal immigration is causing economic hardship to this state and that illegal immigration is encouraged by public agencies within this state that provide public benefits without verifying immigration status” (Proposition 200, 2004: Section 2). Thus, both propositions identified undocumented immigrants as an economic problem, endorsing the debatable assumption that they take more out of the economy than they put into it.

Second, both propositions underscored the use of public services by undocumented immigrants, including public social services (i.e. welfare), public funded health care services, and public primary, secondary and postsecondary educational institutions in California and “all public agencies” in Arizona (Proposition 200, 2004: Section 2). Both propositions also directed public service institutions to report undocumented status of attempted users to Federal immigration authorities, although only the Arizona bill made it a “class 2 misdemeanor” if a public service employee failed to do so (Proposition 200, 2004: Section 6). Third, the primary population that was being targeted was dependent wives and children of undocumented workers—whose demographic characteristics made them especially in need of medical and/or educational services. One difference between California’s Proposition 187, which was declared unconstitutional, and Arizona’s Proposition 200, which was not, was that the latter was passed after the [End Page 714] 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Individual Responsibility Act, and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act of the same year permitted states to take such actions.

Other anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona included the 2007 HB2779, which increased sanctions against those employers who did not use the Basic Pilot Program, a federal data base, to verify the immigration status...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1518
Print ISSN
0003-5491
Pages
pp. 713-718
Launched on MUSE
2008-08-30
Open Access
No
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