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'States of Belonging': How Arizona's immigration policies alienate many Latinos

Immigration policy is once again in the news, as the federal government is facing criticism for what some see as inaction on the border.

But since the early 2000s, it’s been the states that have gotten more heavily involved in making immigration policy. In Arizona, that included laws dealing with denying public services for undocumented immigrants, a law meant to penalize employers who hired undocumented immigrant and, of course, SB 1070, among others.

The goal of those and other policies, according to Tomás Jiménez, was to make immigrants feel unwelcome here. But Jiménez says over the last decade or so, there’s been a shift in tone at the state and local level in an effort to make immigrants feel more welcome.

Jiménez is a professor in the sociology department at Stanford University and co-author of the book, "States of Belonging: Immigration Policies, Attitudes and Inclusion." In it, he and his co-authors studied three different populations in Arizona and New Mexico: foreign-born Latinos, U.S.-born Latinos and U.S.-born white residents.

"We were interested only partly in how those policies allow immigrants to do things or not do things, and that’s really an important aspect of a policy," Jiménez said. "But policies are also signals about who belongs, about who doesn’t, about who is worthy and who is not. They’re kind of moral signals, and we were really interested in the social-psychological effect that policies have on us."

Jiménez says they found, not surprisingly, that Latinos, both U.S.- and foreign-born, felt much less welcome in Arizona than New Mexico. Here, respondents said that was due to the state’s immigration-related policies. But in our neighbor to the east, respondents said they felt more welcome not because of New Mexico’s policies, but because of a cultural feel there. 

The Show spoke with Jiménez to learn about the book and its findings.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.