Photo: Senator Russell Pearce
With tempers flaring, propaganda flying, and media catching every second of the Arizona immigration controversy, you’d think all immigrants would be hiding and/or steering clear of Arizona all together, but immigrants arriving as refugees are being welcomed and treated rather well despite all the “hoopla”.
“We’re not anti-immigrant — never have been,” said Russell Pearce, a Republican State Senator and leading critic of illegal immigration. “But we expect people to follow the law.”
Statistically, the number of refugees (4,700) doesn’t really compare to the 375,000 undocumented immigrants estimated to be residing in Arizona, but with many advocates of the SB 1070 immigration legislation claiming unauthorized immigrants are only in the U.S. for a “free ride” opposition can’t help but point out what seems like preferential treatment of its legal immigrants (refugees). Immigrants fleeing their war/grief-torn homelands are met with open arms and helping hands with programs, grants, and other aid when arriving in the state, many of them having made “settlements” with fellow countrymen.
Fleeing violence in Somalia, Iraq, Kosovo, Myanmar, Bosnia and a number of other countries, the refugees have been able to buy houses, start businesses and receive free health care with help from Arizona’s government and refugee support groups.
Before the recession, the low cost of living and the abundance of entry-level jobs for those still working on their English, made Arizona a great location for refugees and their families.
Though immigration issues are keeping debates constant, many refugee groups are trying to stay out of the argument, though they often wish to clarify that they are legal immigrants and that their situations are different.
A Sudanese goat farmer, Ibrahim Swara-Dahab says he left his homeland and came to the U.S. illegally but as a matter of life and death saying, “I have some problems with the Mexican people; they stole my goats,” adding, “If they don’t have documents, they should go back to their country.”
Other refugees like Swara-Dahab lack sympathy for the Latino immigrants as well. The two groups are often competing for jobs or housing, with some refugees even saying that Latino gangs prey on them.
35-year-old hotel housekeeper Wissam Salman of Iraq, says the United States “stands for law and order,” and “If [government authorities] don’t look for these people it will be a disaster.”