About the Arizona Coalition for Migrant Rights
For the past ten years the state of Arizona has been the primary point of entry for an influx of immigrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border. The success of programs such as Operation Gatekeeper in clamping down on urban crossing areas in Texas and California combined with increased border militarization have funneled the majority of migrant traffic through Arizona. In 2004 for the first time Arizona accounted for more than 50 percent of all apprehensions along the southern border - more than California and New Mexico combined. Because of the dangerous desert terrain of southern Arizona, where summer temperatures regularly soar above 110 degrees, one consequence of this has been a dramatic increase in migrant deaths. In the 2003-2004 fiscal year at least 234 migrants died crossing the border. From October 2004 to September 2005 at least 282 migrants have been found dead – and these numbers are only likely to increase.
This dramatic increase in immigration flow through Arizona has generated a culture of fear and intolerance against migrants, those perceived to be migrants, and their families, in a state where several cities are among the fastest growing in the country. Our role as a major point of entry has generated many specific problems. Increasing violence from coyotes, traffickers and vigilante groups combined with deadly terrain create a situation where the primary struggle of many migrants is simply to survive their crossing. Organizations working on such diverse and critical issues as the human rights of migrant communities, the U.S./Mexico border, the DREAM Act, day labor, detention, the needs of recently resettled refugees and asylum seekers, human trafficking, the rights of immigrant women and more are facing an uphill battle.
Immigrant organizations face challenges trying to address so many direct human needs – health, education, labor, social, and legal – but also in trying to address the fear and intolerance of anti-immigrant legislation and initiatives, and a public which is uneducated and insensitive to the immigrant struggle. An electorate that is fearful of Arizona’s changing demographics and an organized and well-funded anti-immigrant leadership has contributed to putting Arizona at the cutting edge of anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation. This has made us a testing ground for new ideas of the right, seeing how far it is possible to push anti-immigrant legislation. As a result great fear has been instilled in the immigrant community, which has been stripped of many rights and pushed ever further towards an underground economy. With these challenges what has become evident is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for us not only to address these needs, but to repeal anti-immigrant legislation, to fight for the human rights of immigrants and push for reforms that create a path to citizenship, unify families, address labor and civil rights, backlogs in the immigration system, and integrate immigrants into U.S. society.
The Arizona Coalition for Migrant Rights is an effort by local organizations and advocates to come together in an inclusive and diverse network from across the state to work pro-actively to change the social/political climate of immigration in Arizona and to stop the anti-immigrant tide. Adopting the term migrant from the United Nations to reflect global patterns of migration, we have come together to pool our collective skills and experience to develop shared analysis and plans of action; to advocate for justice and raise awareness of migrants and refugees; to increase communication and information sharing across the state; and to organize and educate to promote justice and positive change.