Monday, July 26, 2010

Hoping to Make a Sale

A vendor at El Gran Mercado (The Big Market), a sprawling outdoor flea market that caters to Latino immigrants waits for customers in his hat stall. El Gran Mercado is the largest flea market of its type in the Phoenix area. Small mom and pop vendors sell cowboy hats and boots, Ranchera and Mariachi tapes, pinatas and lucha libre (wrestling) paraphernalia. The food stalls sell things that are hard to find in mainstream Phoenix restaurants, even Mexican ones, like birria chivo (goat stew) and menudo (tripe). Signage throughout the market is in Spanish, which is more widely spoken in the market than English. The concert bandstand has regular lucha libre shows that draw thousands of screaming fans. Shopping at El Gran Mercado is like making a run to a small town south of the border. 
The market appears to be changing. Yesterday it was empty. Fewer than 1/3 of the stalls were open. The remaining restaurants had paltry crowds. I saw only one customer in the beauty salon all afternoon. I asked El Payaso, a clown, trying to entertain a handful of children where all the people had gone. Looking around atop his stilts he said, “they’re gone.” Waving his hands, he added, “like the wind, phhht.” 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rainy Night in Phoenix

A family takes shelter under an umbrella at a rosary service against SB 1070 during a storm in Phoenix this evening. In literal terms, the storm was rain that deluged south Phoenix, a heavily immigrant section of town. Figuratively, the storm is the impending implementation of Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration bill, SB 1070. The bill is scheduled to go into effect at 12:01AM on July 29, but it is the subject of at least three federal lawsuits (being heard by Judge Susan Bolton) who could issue an injunction or stay to delay the bill’s implementation. Whatever she does, she will surely be appealed though so is the beginning of the bill’s legal odyssey, not the end. 

Two of the suits challenging the bill were heard in the Sandra Day O’Connor Courthouse in Phoenix earlier today. Hundreds of the bill’s opponents picketed and protested in front of the courthouse. About 50 supporters of the bill were also there to express their sentiments. But don’t let the lopsided numbers fool you, with an approval rating of well over 60%, the bill is very popular in Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer has ridden the bill’s signing and a wave of anti-immigrant hysteria to almost certain re-election. 

Assuming Judge Bolton doesn’t stay the bill’s implementation, the real storms in Phoenix will come next week when thousands of human rights activists and supporters of immigrants’ rights descend on the city to protest SB 1070. 

There are more photos related to 1070 in my archive. Some of the photos are available from ZUMA Press.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Praying for the Bill

The first of what promises to be a series of lawsuits aimed at stopping SB 1070, Arizona’s new immigration bill took place in Federal Court in Phoenix Thursday. This one was brought by a Phoenix police officer who said the law is unconstitutional because it will force him to use racial profiling to determine a person’s immigration status.  

Protesters from both pro and anti 1070 camps came to the courthouse to express their view. The pro 1070 protesters gathered in a circle in prayer before the hearing started.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

He Wants to be Our Senator

JD Hayworth is the “Consistent Conservative” running in the Republican primary against Senator John McCain’s for the Senate seat held by McCain. Hayworth spoke to a group of about 50 people at a Tea Party function in a meeting room at the Ramada Inn in Peoria. 

Hayworth’s campaign started with a bang last spring but he’s been relatively quiet this summer. McCain, who’s been the victim of dirty campaigns (notably in the 2000 election when the Bush campaign suggested McCain had fathered a black child) hasn’t wasted any time going negative against Hayworth, calling him a “huckster” and digging up old TV spots where Hayworth, a critic of government waste, in late night infomercials pitching free government money to people who bought into the spiel. That was followed by an ad where Hayworth’s response to the infomercial was “caveat emptor,” buyer beware. 

The ads seem to be working. Hayworth supporters have confronted McCain at rallies and asked him to stop running the TV spots. Even Hayworth’s wife has chimed in, filming an ad where she says “John McCain should be ashamed.”

For his part, McCain counters that the ads are true and the truth is the ultimate defence

There are more photos of Hayworth’s event in Peoria in my archive and available fromZUMA Press.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Sign of the Times

The Bureau of Land Management has put signs along Interstate 8 between Gila Bend and Casa Grande in the Sonoran Desert National Monument to warn travelers to avoid the area because of the possibility of running into drug smugglers and illegal immigrants. 

There is little disputing that immigrants and drug smugglers use the area - look at a map and you see that if you’re starting on the border and heading for Phoenix you pretty much have to cross through the area. But what’s open for debate is just how dangerous the area really is. A spokesperson for BLM says the signs are purely a precaution. A Pinal county deputy was injured in a shoot out east of this area but aside from the deputy no one has actually been hurt by either immigrants or smugglers in the area. 

Arizona Gov Jan Brewer has used the signs as a prop in her campaign for reelection. She’s seen standing in front of the sign scolding President Obama for his alleged inaction on illegal immigration and border security. She practically shouts into the camera, “Mr. President, DO YOUR JOB!” Arizona Republicans cite the signs as proof that the border is “out of control.” Others say it’s proof that Arizona is ceding land back to Mexico.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Praying the Rosary for Justice

Members of a Catholic community meet every night on a street corner in south Phoenix to pray the rosary. It’s their way of voicing opposition against SB 1070, Arizona’s new law that requires local police to check the immigration status of a person they have reasonable cause to believe might be in the US illegally. 

The reasonable cause part is what scares many in the Latino community. If you’re pulled over speeding, or having a cracked windshield, or a busted tail light and don’t speak English that could be probable cause. If you’re a Latino US citizen who doesn’t speak English and can’t prove your citizenship you could find yourself sitting in a county jail or even deported to Mexico. 

The law is wildly popular in Arizona and most of the US and has propelled Arizona’s Governor, Jan Brewer, into the pantheon of national Republican leaders. But many Latinos, regardless of their immigration status or nationality, are concerned the law will lead to racial profiling and harassment. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I'm Listening Ahwatukee

Sen. John McCain held another in a series of “town hall” style meetings this morning, this time in a hotel event room in Ahwatukee, an upper middle class neighborhood of Phoenix. These meetings have replaced traditional rallies in McCain’s 2010 reelection campaign. 

He spoke for about 20 minutes on mistakes of the Obama administration, criticizing it for everything from the war in Afghanistan to the high unemployment rate to health care reform. At one point the Senator pledged that the new, presumably Republican Senate and House, would repeal the health care reform bill passed this year. The people in the audience, many of whom appeared old enough to be on medicare, cheered wildly when McCain made the pledge. 

The only contentious exchange was between the Senator and supporter of his opponent, JD Hayworth, the so called “consistent conservative.” The Hayworth supporter was critical of a series of television spots that McCain is running likening Hayworth to a television informercial huckster. In fact, McCain calls Hayworth a “huckster” in one of the spots. McCain silenced Hayworth’s supporter when he asked the man what part of the ads were untrue. 

There are more photos of John McCain in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our Newest Citizens


The Fiesta of Independence at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix is one of the largest naturalization ceremonies in the Phoenix area. Every year it’s held on the 4th of July weekend, when the college turns their gym into a US federal courtroom.
In the past, they’ve welcomed as many as 400 new citizens, this year it was a comparatively small crowd; only about 190 people from around the world became US citizens. 
There are more photos from this year’s ceremony in my archive and available from ZUMA Press