On Immigration

Several weeks ago, someone contacted me to pitch a story about the "border justice" observers of the "Minutemen" project. I politely declined the pitch, explaining that all of that had happened one month before, making the pitch somewhat stale, and that the Weekly has been covering this and other border issues extensively.

The woman--who, I have no doubt, has her heart in the right place--flipped. She sent back an e-mail calling our coverage of the "Minutemen" "one-sided, racist and xenophobic." These feelings were apparently based on a story by Leo W. Banks, "Under Siege" (March 10), which--interestingly enough--had nothing to do with the so-called Minutemen. She referred to Leo as a vigilante and a racist. She also took extreme umbrage with Leo's use of the noun "illegals."

However, she--nor anyone else, for that matter--did not point out a single inaccuracy or exaggeration in "Under Siege," a tale of how property owners along the border are watching their lives be ruined by illegal immigration. (In fairness to this person, she apologized somewhat after I replied to her and said, among other things, that name-calling wasn't appropriate.)

She probably won't care much for this week's cover story, because Leo's at it again, using the word "illegals" and everything.

Leo has a different take on the immigration situation than some other Weekly writers, and that's fine. About a month before this prospective writer was textually tearing Leo and me apart, Renée Downing was getting flooded with letters because her "Brief Know-Your-Border Quiz" (April 21) pissed off all sorts of people who aren't very sympathetic to migrants. Renée dared to accurately point out how vital cheap, Latino labor is to our economy, how most migrants are coming here merely to "selfishly avoid starvation" and how much these Mexican immigrants contribute to Arizona's tax base and economy, among other things.

Meanwhile, Tim Vanderpool has reported on what a media circus the attention-loving "Minutemen" have created. He and Jim Nintzel have both explained in the Weekly how the Border Patrol and migrants themselves are destroying, or threatening to destroy, environmentally sensitive areas along the border. Margaret Regan and others have told how heroes battle to save the lives of immigrants crossing into the United States through the harsh desert, where many migrants die awful deaths every year.

I could go on and on, but I won't. You get the point: Our writers have a bunch of different perspectives about what's going on along the border. And I think Leo, Renée, Tim, Jim and Margaret--who I'd take over any other group of journalists out there, no exaggeration--are all correct.

The bottom line: Immigration is a massively complicated, gut-wrenching issue that is not easily solved.

The Arizona Daily Star, as Tom Danehy pointed out recently, has taken to calling the folks who cross into the United States illegally "entrants."

This is one of the most idiotic terms I've ever heard. But, hey, that's their prerogative. As for us here at the Weekly, we've specifically avoided coming up with a specific "style" term to use when referring to these people. Leo can call them "illegals." Some prefer "border crossers." I prefer "migrants."

That's just semantics. Our goal is to cover the variety of ways this problem affects Tucsonans, Arizonans and Americans--as well as how it affects the migrants themselves.

Take this week's cover story. Leo spent a lot of time, both in person and on the phone, talking to Southern Arizona medical personnel about the huge drain illegal immigration--and, just as importantly, the federal government's policies--has had on area hospitals. It's a startling story, one that I am sure will upset many people who are sympathetic to the plight of migrants.

But that doesn't make the story any less accurate or important. Nor does this story discredit one bit the efforts of those hard-working men and women from Derechos Humanos who left earlier this week along the "Migrant Trail" to bring attention to the deaths of migrants in the desert. It doesn't address the environmental issues, the racist undertones of the "Minuteman" project, the awful system we have in place that allows corporations to profit from cheap migrant work, the foreign policies of the United States that lead to poverty in other countries, or any other number of immigration-related issues. It's just one story on one aspect.

We plan to keep on covering these and other border issues as much and comprehensively as we can, while letting our writers express their own viewpoints, using their own words. As always, the Mailbag and Guest Commentary sections are open for feedback and response. Please, don't do like our angry, heart-in-the-right-place prospective writer did when she declined to say a word about Leo's piece for more than two months: If you have something to say, say it.

In the meantime, keep an open mind, and analyze the situation with both heart and mind. That's what we'll be doing. That's a promise.

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