Did SB 1070 fill a gap long neglected by Washington, or did it line Arizona up as a target for national scorn and ridicule?
A year ago yesterday, Gov. Jan Brewer affixed her signature to a piece of legislation making it, among other things, a crime to be in Arizona without proof of citizenship or lawful residence. In so doing, the former secretary of state, elevated when former Gov. Janet Napolitano joined the Obama administration as secretary of Homeland Security, instantly wrote her ticket to a full term in the governor's office.
When 2010 began, few could have predicted Brewer or Arizona would rise so quickly to the prominence and infamy - depending on your point of view - that it has achieved. By the time 2011 rolled around, and the nation's 48th state began celebrating its centennial of statehood, the atmosphere was hardly one of jubilation: Protests, boycotts, counter-demonstrations, endless vitriol spewing in both directions. Cries of "Racists!" and "Nazis!" - sometimes from both sides of the debate.
In a weeklong special report launched last Sunday, we looked at where the controversial legislation stands and how it has affected the community, the economy, the political landscape and law enforcement here in the East Valley. Here's a summary:
• Brewer and the bill's architect, state Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, stand firmly behind their actions and make no apologies, saying they will prevail in the end.
• The state's Hispanic neighborhoods are reeling from an exodus of residents - illegal or not - who were scared away by SB 1070's implications.
• States that originally sought to emulate Arizona's approach - often out of individual lawmakers' personal political ambitions - have scaled back their plans.
• Republicans gained clout from the push to secure the border, but could face a backlash - especially with the surging Latino population in the state and nationwide.
• Arizona's business community, sidelined as the law took shape, eventually roared when its costs became clear.
• The state's police agencies spent significant time and money training to enforce SB 1070, but now are in limbo with the law itself.
If you missed any of the stories, you can read them at our website.
The shape of SB 1070's legacy is still in flux. Much of the legislation is blocked by a federal judge's injunction - which was recently upheld. Brewer and Pearce say they are willing to take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
We don't know how it will all end, although the appeals court that upheld the injunction certainly seems to think the nation's highest court will strike the law itself down as unconstitutional.
But these things we do know, in the core of our being:
• It doesn't make us traitors or open-border fanatics to say that SB 1070 places an unseemly scrutiny on legal citizens of Hispanic descent, whose contributions have made Arizona great.
• It doesn't make us Nazis or racists to say that the federal government's rejection of its responsibilities places an undue burden on the border states, and somebody had to do something.
Somewhere in between is the real Arizona, the Arizona that has charmed the nation and the world with its people, customs and natural wonders for far longer than its 100 years of official statehood. Wherever SB 1070 takes us, that must not be lost.