5 Ways SB 1070 Changed Arizona: A Reading List
Elizabeth Stuart

5 Ways SB 1070 Changed Arizona: A Reading List

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably familiar with Senate Bill 1070, Arizona's infamous "show me your papers" law. You probably know that it led musicians, politicians, and activists to boycott the state. You may have heard that there was a protracted legal battle before the Supreme Court struck down some aspects and left other parts intact.

But what has SB 1070 really meant for Arizona? Here's five in-depth stories about how the state's political climate has changed since 2010, for better or for worse.

1. Police State: How the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency Turned All Local Authorities Into La Migra

Okay, so this is technically a "before SB 1070" story, but it bears noting: Even before SB 1070 became state law, it was common practice for police officers to pull over undocumented immigrants for minor infractions like failing to wear a seatbelt or properly stop at a stop sign, then hand them over to ICE.

In his 2008 cover story, Ray Stern notes, "For minor crimes that usually would not merit jail time, the punishment is almost always the same: deportation."

2. SB 1070 Shooter Gary Kelley Sentenced to 27.5 Years in White-on-Brown Slaying

Days after Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, a white South Phoenix resident, Gary Kelley, fatally shot his Hispanic neighbor, Juan Varela. "You fucking Mexican, go back to Mexico!" he reportedly screamed beforehand.

Shortly after his sentencing, Stephen Lemons wrote that the bill had "served as a catalyst, emboldening those who think 'Americans' are by definition white, planting seeds of distrust and resentment, and fattening the ugly tumor of prejudice in the brains of weak-willed men like Kelley."

3. SB 1070 Has Been Bad for Arizona and Worse for Mexicans, but It Inspired a Year's Worth of Great Art.

One positive outcome of terrible legislation? Great protest art. 

"It's no secret that when SB 1070 was signed, Arizona's national reputation tanked, business suffered, and our Mexican community was subjected to unfair raids and accusations," Claire Lawton wrote in 2011. "But some artists have flourished."

4. SB 1070 Fuels a Movement of New Voters.

Another unexpected benefit of SB 1070 is that it was great for voter turnout. Monica Alonzo's 2012 New Times cover story looks at the political climate after the bill passed, and the role it played in mobilizing Latino voters.

"Hispanics have been fighting for equality and civil rights for more than a century — from efforts in Arizona and across the country to end school segregation for Mexican-American students to the César Chávez-inspired fight for fair wages for migrant farmworkers and a broad Chicano Movement pushing for political change," she wrote. "But the fiery fight had waned, and the community settled into a period of complacency driven by a lack of strong community leadership and splintered factions of political power."

5. 7 Things Arizona Learned from Fighting SB 1070 That We Can Use Against Trump

As we've discussed previously, Arizona laid the foundation for Trump's victory last November. Now that anti-immigrant fervor has infected the rest of the country, local activists and organizers here have found themselves in high demand.

In a piece published earlier this year, journalist and activist Luis Avila created a playbook that anyone can follow, using lessons learned from the battle over SB 1070.

"There is widespread fear, confusion, calls to action, and steps for legal protection," he wrote. "But instead of our state of only 6 million-plus going through this together, now we are 320 million Americans."

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