Friday, May 21, 2010

Being Mexican is Not a Crime: SB 1070 and the Boycott of Arizona

Being Mexican is Not a Crime:
SB 1070 and the Boycott of Arizona
The Noise
June 2010
The Outs
Ellen Jo Roberts

Just when the rest of the country had almost started to forget the 1990s Martin Luther King Holiday debacle, Arizona is back in the daily headlines for a poorly presented pseudo-racist government policy. Governor Jan Brewer’s quick acceptance of the vaguely worded State Bill 1070, in a bid to curry Republican votes for election season, has polarized the state and the country. Arizona, heartbreakingly beautiful love of my life, has been reduced to a punch line, a punching bag. It pains me to see it so mishandled.

Arizona’s survived bad governors before. Remember Evan “Pickaninny” Meacham, the first Arizona governor to be impeached? Fife Symington was a swindler who resigned office after being convicted of fraud. Jane Hull used the state’s helicopter for personal travel. Now we have Jan Brewer running roughshod over the landscape, closing state parks, deregulating gun permissions, legalizing fireworks, and cutting the Arizona Office of Tourism’s budget by 70%, with seemingly little thought of the impact. The ill will generated by SB 1070, closure of parks, and the snuffing of a proactive tourism program will have a long lasting impact on our state’s reputation and economy, long after Brewer’s appointed term expires.

For a country so lion-hearted as the USA, always running to the assistance of countries half a planet away, it’s a bit incredible we’d not invest more thought and positive energy into the situation with our very own next door neighbors.

There is a silver lining to all this. There is a correct answer on immigration policies that could eventually take shape from all of this uproar. But, as of today, it’s not yet arrived. Both right wing and left wing arguments hinge on something sensational, partial truths, fear. Perhaps at some point, folks could discuss this reasonably, rationally. There’s a sense of general disappointment that our former Governor Janet Napolitano, now Secretary of Homeland Security, hasn’t yet championed something more proactive and positive at the federal level in regards to illegal immigration. Arizona’s answer, building fences and questioning citizenship based on a hazy set of suggestions seems distinctly negative, backwards, and so very 20th century.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon calls the new law “discriminatory”, and warns that Mexico will not support the criminalization of migration. He blames the United States’ big appetite for illicit drugs as a primary cause for border breach. The Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a travel advisory for Mexican nationals visiting Arizona, warning, “It must be assumed that every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time.” President Barack Obama had cautioned Governor Brewer against signing the bill, though acknowledges the bill arrived as a “misdirected expression of frustration” due to the lack of solutions at the federal level. The president is enlisting the federal judicial committee to review 1070, line by line, due to his concerns it has the “potential to be discriminatory.” One week after the bill was approved, additional modifications to the bill, HB 2162, were passed, addressing and correcting racial profiling aspects to 1070.

Those supporting the bill are generally proud of Arizona’s tough maverick stance on illegals, attempting to take control of a situation the federal government hasn’t.
Those against the bill say it’s unconstitutional, fascist, against civil rights of American citizens, who now may be targeted by patrol simply for being of Mexican heritage. It sends an unfriendly message to international companies and travelers.
“Show me your papers” sounds a bit Gestapo.

Governor Brewer insists the bill would only apply to people who commit suspicious and potentially illegal acts. Such as speeding, loitering… or perhaps just appearing the slightest bit like an illegal alien, the overwhelming majority of which in the US are from Mexico. Brewer’s F.AQ. info sheet assures if you’re an American citizen you don’t need to carry documentation (…unless maybe you’re a Mexican American? In which case, you’d probably better.)
Enforcement of 1070 falls squarely on the shoulders of Arizona police.
Police support of the bill is mixed, with statewide police officers generally pro, and the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police generally against. They already have their hands full with daily local situations, in addition to attempting enforcement of immigration policies, technically an issue that falls under federal jurisdiction. President Obama expressed concerns that 1070 “would undermine the notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.” How will 1070 be enforced? A DVD with complete step-by-step instructions will be sent to all Arizona Police departments prior to the bill taking effect in July.

It’s what I’d call a Trojan Horse law. The government expands its powers in ways we’d normally see and agree are unconstitutional by wrapping said expansion in an emotionally charged set of circumstances.”- Phoenix Arizona man

Right wing fundamentalists will attack you personally if you disagree with them. They will question your education, your religion, your patriotism, make threats, and could very well show up at your front door with a shotgun. They title their jingoistic letters to the editor “Illegals Go Home!”or“America First” and bark in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
To hear them tell it, their family arrived here “legally” via the Mayflower, or Ellis Island, learned English immediately, worked steadily, paid their taxes promptly, and every one of them fought in our armed forces. None of them ever even so much as made an illegal U-turn, or ripped a “do not remove under penalty of law” tag off a pillow. To them, the Mexicans are a faceless flood of humanity streaming over the border unabated, not speaking English, not paying taxes, stealing our government services, living on the dole, and getting free health care. And unlike we Americans, the Mexicans are criminals! Gangsters, murderers, pimps, drug dealers, rapists! And if you don’t agree, then maybe you’re a commie pinko and you’re part of the problem, ya’ damn hippie bleeding heart liberal. The truth, like everything else in the United States, is a bit more complex. The Mexicans are like us in more ways than they are different.

White people are so quick to forget their Italian, German, Polish and Irish ancestors also faced persecution when they came over here; many ‘illegally’ as well. How quickly we forget…or find some reason to justify this racism.” –Chicago man.

The left wing, on the other end of the spectrum, shout through the streets with signs and swastika t-shirts, demanding Arizona be boycotted as punishment for this affront to human rights. They demand the Lakers wear “Los Lakers” jerseys when playing “Los Suns”. The Arizona Boycott was actually initiated by one of our own politicians, Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona’s 7th Congressional District. Seattle now joins the ranks of several other West Coast cities officially “boycotting” Arizona, including San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Heavily Hispanic pro-baseball teams
have entertained thoughts of relocating their spring training camps from Arizona. Phoenix officials estimated a potential loss of $90 million dollars in canceled tourism and conferences. I’m basically a lefty, a Democratic fish swimming forever upstream in Republican stronghold. I’m accustomed to people disagreeing with my politics.
However, the “activists” and their boycotting are just as unreasonable as the fear mongering right wing. One must wonder how many of them have even read the bill, and how many have merely jumped on a bandwagon of negativity because it’s currently the cause currently in vogue. Boycotting Arizona is wrong, and it will hurt all the wrong people: the working class folks, the small businesses, the school and park systems.

Arizona has only been a state for 98 years. Prior to that, it was a territory. And before that, for much longer than it’s been any part of the USA, this land was property of Mexico, shared with the native tribes who’ve inhabited the land since time immemorial. The Chicano culture is the fabric that holds Arizona, a state full of snowbirds and transplants, together. This stirs much of the anger surrounding the new law. Mexican families with history here far longer than many of us more recent arrivals will now be potentially suspect.
“Clearly, and bluntly, the state law is racist and discriminatory against so-called ‘illegal immigrants’ crossing the borders from the South, namely from Mexico,” said Simon Ortiz, a Native American Studies Professor at Arizona State University, “Many of the border crossers are indigenous peoples who are directly affected. Without any doubt, the law is wrong headed; it targets people who fit a certain profile.”

Self-righteous supporters of SB 1070 conveniently neglect to mention that however “legally” they believe their ancestors arrived, they were still setting foot on land forcibly taken from Native American tribes. Perhaps Arizona’s Hopi, Navajo, Yavapai Apache, Havasupai, Pima, Maricopa, and Tohono O’Odham tribes should start asking us all for our paperwork.

Bottom line is, we’re ALL illegal! We stole this country from the Native Americans! They should tell us all to get the f #!&* out!”- Jerome Arizona woman.

The Federal Immigration and Nationality Act, already in effect nationwide, states that any alien citizens present in the U.S. must present documentation upon request. American citizens are required by law to present drivers licenses and proof of insurance if stopped by highway patrol. Traveling through most European nations requires frequent presentation of identification, even within borders. In Texas borderlands, police strictly monitor roads, asking for documentation from all.

“Don’t even get me started. Here in El Paso, Border Patrol and police are pulling us over and checking our identification all the time… I think illegal immigrants are a slap in the face insult to people like my father who immigrated here legally.”- Texas woman.

People (from all countries) immigrate here illegally because we have a demand for cheap, below minimum wage labor. Many industrial and agricultural economies are carried on the backs of illegal laborers. This is 100% our fault. Despite rigid laws already in place in Arizona, sanctioning business owners with substantial fines for lacking proper documentation of their employees, illegal immigrants still find work easily. Most of the Mexicans I know, legal and illegal, are extremely wary of the government, being basically distrustful of their own, and tend not to go anywhere there’s paperwork. This includes any type of social services. According to Department of Homeland Security statistics, illegal immigrants are estimated to pay about $7 billion dollars per year into Social Security, a system from which they will never reap any benefit.

US Immigration allows illegal immigration, in fact encourages it! The nation’s cheap industrial food production and processing depends on immigrant labor. Folks want cheap food, but they fail to link the fact that it requires cheap labor!”- Washington state woman.

Fact: It is not easy to become an American citizen. You cannot just show up and sign the guest book, like people joke. It’s grown a bit more complicated than it was when the Statue of Liberty waved folks into Ellis Island. Back then, you got photographed, examined, quarantined, perhaps given American-ish new names to better assimilate, and sent on to your way. In order to apply for citizenship in the 21st century one is generally required to have family already here, or marry into one. You need to have special work skills, and/or an education of value to our country, or be seeking political asylum.
After 5 years of “Resident Alien” status, one may apply for naturalized citizenship.
It is a lengthy process.

Approximately 140,000 immigrant visas are available each fiscal year for aliens (and their spouses and children) who seek to immigrate based on their job skills. If you have the right combination of skills, education, and/or work experience and are otherwise eligible, you may be able to live permanently in the United States.”
- United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

100 years ago, when my maternal great grandparents arrived on the Cunard Line’s “Ultonia” from Serbia, all you had to do was pretty much show up. In 1910, as the Ultonia entered New York Harbor, my grandmother was born on board and became an instant citizen. My great-grandmother, Ana Komlenich, lived in Chicago for 75 years without ever learning more than a few words of English. She signed her name with an “x”. She laughed uncontrollably at The Three Stooges. Despite her lack of assimilation, my great grandmother was part of our nation’s story just as much as anyone.

A woman requesting to be known only as an “Anonymous Business Owner and Long-time Tax Payer in Arizona” shares her thoughts about SB 1070:
I am against any frivolous law. It is already illegal to be here illegally. If you get stopped for a traffic violation and you don't have a valid US driver's license, it is already in the authority of the officer to request additional documentation…As a US citizen, if I was pulled over, could not produce a valid driver's license AND lied to the cop about my address, I am going to JAIL, regardless of my citizenship status,” Ms. Anonymous continues, “People on both sides of the argument (and let me tell you, I have had knock down drag out fights with people on both sides) have completely lost sight of what this law actually says. Most of the arguments I hear for, and some against, have absolutely no bearing on the actual content of this absurd law…

“I know ranchers along the border, and there is no way that this law is going to stop coyote and drug violence as they cross over. In fact, all this law is likely to do is catch a few illegal immigrants who have already been here for a while and are too dumb to A) not get a fake social security card, then valid driver's license and/or B) not get stopped for violating a traffic law--all this is likely to be LONG after they have crossed the border…

“Yes, immigration is a problem, but SB1070 isn't going to actually DO anything but piss off everyone. If Jan Brewer's only intention was to call national attention to a problem, then this was inarguably a tremendous success. Arizona is now the object of hatred the world over. Yippee!”

Obviously, an immigration reform needs to happen. For the safety and dignity of all people, both citizens of the US and citizens of the world. Checking documents will not keep out the drug cartels and the high dollar criminals who can afford the best paperwork and bribes money can buy (-just like banning guns will not prevent the criminal element from owning them.)
People don’t just cross the border in the dark of night. John McCain’s fence won’t keep them at bay. They cross on the highway in broad daylight. They arrive in cars, planes, boats, trains. They come as tourists and overstay their visas. And despite popular belief, they’re not all from Mexico.

“I don’t hear that they’re going after all of the illegal Irish immigrants working in New York bars.” – Brooklyn woman, currently residing in Scottsdale AZ.

Illegals pay thousands of dollars to unscrupulous middlemen to be stuffed into trunks, or packed tightly into the backs of vans. In Arizona, coyotes dump them off in the most dangerous stretches of lonesome desert, to battle the devastating heat of summer, and risk death by dehydration. Leaving trails of garbage, clothing, blankets, plastic, diapers throughout the desert, depending on the kindness of far flung ranchers to supply water.
It’s truly surprising that capitalist America hasn’t realized they’re missing out on a real goldmine here! A big money maker for our weakened budgets. Instead of paying coyotes for illegal passage and risking their lives to arrive in the U.S., immigrants could pay the U.S. government, to register into work program, complete with legal documents, and safe journey into the United States. Illegal immigrants already here could register for such a program as well, perhaps with references, background checks, employers and sponsors getting involved.

Hey smart people of beautiful Arizona!
Let’s entertain some better ideas on how to deal with this issue.
Instead of shouting over each other ALL IN CAPS, maybe instead we hash out the best of our ideas, stir them in a melting pot called America, and make something good out of all this.

Ellen Jo Roberts lives in an undisclosed location in Clarkdale Arizona.
She wrote a letter to Governor Jan Brewer. She’s not yet heard back.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Homes of Jerome- History on Every Corner

Bob Bradshaw photo

Homes of Jerome
May 2010
The Outs
Ellen Jo Roberts

When we lived in Jerome, people always asked us how we did it. Tourists would stop their rental cars in front of our house, as we sat on the porch eating our breakfast. They’d bellow: “Where do you buy your groceries?!” and take photos of us like we were monkeys at the zoo. It always gave us a chuckle. People want to know how you Jerome folk do it. It’s a bit more magical and inconvenient than most other towns. Everything is vertical there. The outrageous views, picturesque buildings, vintage style, and overall dreaminess are tempered by the crooked, crowded parking, nosy neighbors, narrow side streets and crumbling infrastructure. Jerome is simultaneously everyone’s fantasy and nightmare. It takes a hardy breed to inhabit it, and keep it alive.

The first Jerome Home Tour took place in 1966, making this May’s tour the 45th annual, and longest running tour in Arizona. Jerome in 1966 was still a ghost town, just newly being discovered by hippies, artists, and counter culture types who brought it back from the dead. In the past 45 years, Jerome has become something quite different: a bustling economic success, a major tourist draw full of fabulous art galleries, boutiques, adorable accommodations, and an amazing collection of premium restaurants and cafes — far more than you’d expect in a town with a population hovering right around 350 residents. On the weekend of May 15-16, you can see for yourself how Jerome folk thrive and survive with their antiquated plumbing, steeply angled streets, and awesome 75-mile view.

This year’s home tour will feature a great selection of both vintage and modern homes on the seldom seen side streets of Jerome, as well as commercial structures, like the Connor Hotel, the United Verde Apartments, and the recently restored Audrey Head Frame. The Christ Church of Jerome, built in 1927 and now home to the Jerome Historical Society, is also part of the tour’s itinerary. Tours will take place from 9AM to 3PM each day. Transportation will be provided to each location, but the tour, with many steps, and steep paths is not wheelchair accessible.

Cheifetz Cottage
Steve and Karen Cheifetz are Phoenicians who purchased their historic Jerome cottage 8 years ago. The simple structure was home to Jerome miner, Damian Gutierrez and his family. SeƱor Gutierrez corralled burros near the house, as a tourist lure for photo ops.
His talented son, Alfredo, was born in 1929. Legend has it, when Alfredo was a child, his incredible singing voice and dancing style earned him tips from miners each pay day when he performed on top of the bar at the Spirit Room. Young Alfredo would often return home with more money than his father's weekly salary. A Hollywood talent scout wanted to sign him up to become the next Mickey Rooney, but his strict parents forbade it. Alfredo's boisterous personality did not let up in later years.
As an adult he continued to perform music, and opened a restaurant where he would entertain guests in between cooking meals. His restaurant was in the location currently home to Cottonwood’s “Georgie’s.” Alfredo later shared the Gutierrez family home with his fashion designer wife, Ava Dering. Known popularly in the jet set as “Alfredo’s Wife,” she achieved some nationwide notoriety in the 1970s and ‘80s for her wild and colorful fashions.
How did the Cheifwetz family become part of the home’s history?
“It's a long story,” says Ms. Cheifetz, a native Ohioan who arrived in Phoenix in 1983. ”Steve introduced me to many different towns in Arizona years ago. When he decided to share Jerome with me, he said I would fall in love with it instantly. We had hopes of getting a place there someday. While sharing Jerome with our kids years later, we spotted a for sale sign. We called to check out houses and bought our home the next day!”

Attracted by “the beauty, the lifestyle and people, the music, the historical preservation and of course, the natural surroundings,” the Cheifetz family is now part of Jerome’s story. With extensive garden and stonework, the cottage boasts one of Jerome’s loveliest yards.
“Some would see the town’s commitment to preserving Jerome’s history and character as a challenge, but that is one of the things that drew us to town. The fact that new and long time residents feel a sense of honor and duty to keep out commercialism and contribute to the community is heartwarming,” says Ms. Cheifetz.

Ron Chilston photo

The Mills House
Perched high above town on “the Boardwalk” of Company Hill is a renovated Victorian, named for past mine supervisor, Carl Mills, who lived there with his family. Their son, Mark Mills, a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple and one of the foremost architects of his time, was born in the house. Originally built in 1898 for use by mine managers, this beautiful Victorian home was occupied by the Mills from approximately 1921 to 1950. They were likely its longest-term residents.

During the last half of the 20th century, the home suffered much neglect. By 2003, the roof was partially collapsed, and much of the house was filled with earth from the hillside above. The beautiful redwood facade was held in place only by vines of ivy. Many of the beautiful Victorian accents had vanished due to weather or vandals. Local resident and realtor, John Scarcella, renovated the home, utilizing the original interior floor plan, raising the roofline and adding dormers to create a full-size second story.

Tucson residents Deneill and Bill Phinney purchased the home in 2006. At the time, Mr. Phinney was preparing to retire from his career as a railroad engineer for the Union Pacific, and the couple began entertaining options for the next stage in their lives.
During the summer of ‘06, the couple headed off on an unstructured vacation, wandering north towards Utah. “At a stop in Phoenix, we picked up a brochure for the Verde Canyon Railroad and saw Jerome marked on the location map. My husband had never been to Jerome and the last time I had been was when I was in my early teens. I had fallen in love with the place then, so we decided to see what it was like now … We fell in love with the area, the town and the people … and then we fell in love with our house. We were walking around one day and saw the ‘for sale’ sign.” Fate struck.

Ms. Phinney continues, “One of my dreams has long been to live in a Victorian. I used to live in San Francisco and would walk around looking at the houses with all of their bright colors and charming gingerbread. While we were in the process of buying the house, we would periodically sneak up to sit on the front porch and look at the view. The front porch is probably our favorite part of the house, even now. Well, with the exception of in front of the fireplace, when it is snowing. And the garden when the lilacs and roses are in bloom. Oh, and the quiet corner of the bedroom upstairs which is set up for meditation and reading … I guess we just love everything about it! "

Ron Chilston photo

The Sullivan House is the oldest home on this year’s tour, dating from 1886.
It was also one of the earliest historic preservations, as part of the 1970s Restoration Commission’s project to conserve and restore the Victorian homes of Company Hill. The Restoration Commission was formed by a group of Jerome hippies who had a notion to save the old architectural gems of Jerome. Saved by the counterculture, just like much of this eccentric little city!
At the time, the structures were all owned by Phelps Dodge, and the mining company agreed to the hippies’ plan, charging each commission member $50 a month rent to caretake each home. Sherry MacMahon purchased the home in 1987, as part of “Society Hill Preservation, Inc.” and has lived there with her husband Curtis Linder ever since.
The home acquired its name from Con and Mary Sullivan, who inhabited it with their eight children. Con arrived from Ireland and served for a time as a head honcho of the mine. The large Sullivan clan spent many years in the Victorian gem and even today, later generations still return to visit the old homestead.
The one thousand-square foot house, in its current incarnation, boasts a new foundation, a new wood burning stove, roof, paint, wood flooring, cabinetry, bathrooms, railings, and plumbing. Ms. MacMahon, owner of Papillion Antiques, has filled the home with vintage treasures, and details that make it one of Jerome’s loveliest homes.

The Kinsella House.
Built in 2007, this 3000-square foot, three-story home features 675 square feet of deck space, and according to the owner, “One hell of a view!”
“This property had no building on it throughout Jerome’s history, which was good, since this whole area was demolished due to the slides of the 1930s,” wrote Jay Kinsella, a longtime Jerome local, all around “go to” guy, and perhaps the town’s next mayor, “During the 1930s subsidence (slide), every building was lost from the east side of Main Street to Juarez Street. All the buildings were pushed down the hillside between the Sliding Jail and what is now the end of Rich Street.”

In the late 1940s, a two-story foundation was built, but construction did not go any further. “Just a two story shell sat ‘til the late 70s,” Mr. Kinsella continues.
In the early 1980s, the second story was removed and pieces were used as retaining walls on the street side of the property. Jane Moore owned the property during the 80s, and used the foundation shell as a corral to keep her horses. Jay’s brother, Jim, owner of the house across the street, was next to purchase the land. In the late 80s, the concrete foundation remnants were used as a burn area by the Jerome Fire Department. Jim Kinsella passed away in 1999, and his family inherited the property. In 2007, Jay and his wife Pam began construction of the single-family home.

“It took 5 months 27 days to complete the house,” Mr. Kinsella says, “This was from the removal of the old foundation to the first meal in the kitchen.”

The Audrey Head Frame is the largest and oldest mining structure in Arizona. Tour takers may peer down the 1900-foot shaft. The bottom 200 feet is full of water!

The United Verde Apartments, an art deco set of three buildings overlooking the upper park and the road to Prescott, once housed offices and clinics, and now is home to a variety of hip and clever shops (including Puscifer and Jerome Tattoo) as well as restored apartments. The ceilings in each apartment are remarkably tall in a way modern apartments would never be.

The Connor Hotel.
A Jerome icon, a handsome building on a picturesque corner, the Connor is home to the popular Spirit Room, and an adorable collection of twelve well-kept historic rooms. The hotel was built in 1898 by an Irish American named David Connor, so it seems only fitting that a fiercely proud Irish American named David Conlin purchased the hotel with his business partner brother, Robert, in 1980. The hotel was in continuous operation from 1898 until 1988.

“In that year, the town closed it due to numerous code violations,” said general manager, Anne Conlin, “It had become sort of a flophouse. You know, get a room from the bartender for five dollars, or sometimes nothing at all!,” Ms. Conlin laughs, though acknowledges that even during those bleak days, the hotel still wore a proud mystique, with countless fond memories for many generations of locals and visitors. She exhibits the same fresh faced charm and twinkling grin as David Conlin, her father.

In 1999, the Conlins began renovations, and the hotel was reopened in 2000, complete with fire sprinklers, new fixtures, wiring and everything up to code. The hotel will have four rooms open on the north wing of the building for the Home Tour, “They’re really nice rooms. All fully renovated, yet they all retain their historic character,” states Ms. Conlin. The renovation contractor kept as much of the original wood work, doors, and other vintage fixtures as possible through the renovation.

This year’s Jerome Home Tour will also include a “living history” time line, events of the years ranging from 1860-1898 re-enacted in the streets throughout the day by actors in period costumes. Highlights include Civil War mock battles, complete with camps, uniforms and vintage weapons.

If you ever were curious about how Jerome people live, now is your chance to get up close and personal. It’s an interesting dichotomy. The folks on Cleopatra Hill are a hardy breed, determined, resolute, and tough as nails, but not lacking one bit of charm, beauty or magic. It’s no easy feat to live life perched on the side of this mountain, but it is worth all the extra effort for those who call Jerome home.

All proceeds from the Jerome Home Tour will benefit future projects of the Jerome Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $12 for adults, and $6 for children 3-12. Kids 2 and under are free. For more information, contact Colleen at (928) 649-3837. Special thanks to Gallery 527’s Donna Chesler for sharing great information and details on this year’s tour.

Ellen Jo Roberts may let you tour her historic home some day, except she is afraid her attack Chihuahua will rip your face off. She lives in Clarkdale with Bike Daddy Chad, some pets, and Volkswagens. Read more about it at