By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
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DeConcini, who was Pima County Attorney before he was a senator, is no liberal, no "open-borders anarchist," as nativists like to smear their opponents.
A pro-law-enforcement Democrat who has endorsed Joe Arpaio for sheriff in the past, DeConcini has made it clear that 1070 is one law he does not support. During his testimony before the committee, he spoke eloquently of the culture Anglos and Latinos share in this state while decrying the "toxic environment" the law has created.
Juan Varela's sister Susie Mendoza, who was at her mom's home with Tony and other family members when I stopped by, believes that "toxic environment" is part of the reason her brother is now dead.
If you roll back your memory banks to April and May 2010, you may recall that the fight over 1070 was at a fever pitch. Anger and animosity reigned. It was not until federal Judge Susan R. Bolton enjoined the most troubling aspects of the law, on July 28, 2010, that Arizona gradually began to defuse.
"We are probably more angry at the governor [Jan Brewer] and [recalled state Senate President] Russell Pearce," Mendoza says when I ask how she felt toward Kelley. "Because they're the ones that placed all of this fear in the minds of so many people."
Certainly, both Brewer (who signed it) and Pearce (who pimped it) used 1070 for short-term political gain. Each politician amped up public anxiety over illegal immigration, wrongly asserting that Arizona was out of control, with headless bodies in the desert and crime rampant.
Actually, crime had been trending down for several years in Arizona, and illegal entries also were on the decline, largely because of America's ailing economy. But that's not what you saw in the local media.
Reasoned analysis gave way to scapegoating, as local TV stations blared segments with titles better suited to wrestling matches, feeding into the atmosphere of acrimony.
Sadly, Kelley, not only ended a life of a brother, a son, a father, a husband, an uncle, and a coach in shooting Juan Varela, he also ruined his own life. At 52, he's doing a 27 1/2-year stretch in state prison.
When county Superior Court Judge Susan Brnovich sentenced Kelley, she said he was a murderer, not a racist. True, there's no evidence that Kelley was a white supremacist. The onetime golf course worker had Latino friends, and much was made of the fact that his ex-wife is Latino.
About that, I'll point out that disbarred former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, a man who is no friend of the Latino community, has a Hispanic wife. Similarly, Pearce, easily the state's biggest bigot, has half-Latino grandchildren.
In a diverse society like ours, such cognitive dissonance is necessary for bigots, nativists, and racists to maintain their extremist viewpoints. Rationalizing one's own inconsistencies and those of one's family members seems to be part of human nature.
There's a metaphor for Arizona in Kelley's behavior. A third of this state's population is Hispanic. It is nearly impossible for someone to live in Arizona without having friends, acquaintances, family, or neighbors who are Latino.
Even the most sheltered individuals still have to come in contact with Latinos while residing in the Grand Canyon State.
And yet Arizona is now known nationally and internationally as a state full of anti-Mexican bigots. Why?
Because in this life — and some believe in the next — we are judged by our actions.
And as the gospels tell us, "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."
The politicians elected and empowered by Arizonans made 1070 the law, and so the majority of our citizenry must accept responsibility for a statute that has caused widespread panic, division, and distrust.
SB 1070 has been the bad tree in our midst, and from it, we've harvested evil fruit. Varela's death being one of the most evil yet.
"It's something you have to live with the rest of your life," Juan's brother, Tony, says. "Seeing your own brother die and not knowing why [his killer] didn't shoot you."
Varela's mom's words are even more poignant.
"If I knew [Kelley] had a pistol and he was going to do that," she says, wiping tears from the corner of her eyes, "I would [have gotten] in front of Juan. I'm already old and I already lived. And [Juan had] his little girl."
Juan Varela's daughter, Paulita, was 13 at the time her father was murdered. He also left behind his wife, Maria.
The Varelas' loss is our loss. Scores of letters to the judge in the case are entered into the court record. They are from people who knew Juan Varela, from community leaders, nephews and nieces, and young people whom Varela coached. They talk of him being a kind, generous, amiable man.
He's not our only loss from 1070. Arizona's economy and reputation have suffered. Contrary to the lies told by its supporters, 1070 has not made us safer, nor has it helped the state or its residents in any way.
Regardless of what the U.S. Supreme Court decides, Arizona will receive no redemption for what's already been allowed to transpire in this state. Nor will it bring back Varela to his family.