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September 24, 2018
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Why are New Mexico and Arizona different on immigrants? (Listen again)
(2010-07-28)
(KSFR) -
In an 11th hour decision, a federal judge in Phoenix has blocked many of the controversial provisions of Arizona's tough new immigration law -- just before it was to take effect. Now, expect a long series of court proceedings as the federal government and the state square off on who has the ultimate authority to enforce the nation's imigration laws.

For a state that's right next door, New Mexico has displayed a decidedly different attitude toward immigrants than has Arizona.

A prime example is at the very top of state government. Arizona's anglo Gov. Jan Brewer encouraged a tough stance on immigrants. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has an Hispanic background and a markedly softer approach.

Why the difference between the two neighboring states? KSFR's Dan Gerrity has been doing some research on that. (Audio above)

As neighboring states born of the singular New Mexico territory back in the 19th century, the immigration matter has put Arizona and New Mexico on awkward footing with each other. But it's not the first time by any means. In fact, historically, the first official mention of an "Arizona" stems from a break-away, seccessionist movement in the New Mexico territory back in 1862. Then, a large southern swath of the territory comprising portions of both modern-day Arizona and New Mexico swore allegiance to Confederate President Jefferson Davis back in February 12th of that year. Rick Hendricks is the historian for the state of New Mexico. He says that action was the result of turmoil that was prevalent in our region of the country following the invasion of Santa Fe back in 1846. Some months later, the New Mexico territory was claimed by Union Forces at the Battle of Glorieta pass.

In 1863, President Lincoln formally recognized Congress' creation of separate New Mexico and Arizona territories with the borders we are familiar with today. Yet, even with that, portions of Arizona continued to be represented in the Confederate Congress with a provisonal government relocated to Confederate Texas. Troops continued fighting under Arizona's banner until the war's end.

Rick Hendricks makes historical note of the reverse polarities of our two political parties at the time that served as an ideological boundary between Arizona and New Mexico. He says Lincoln's Republicans were the equivalent of today's Democrats and vice versa. And New Mexico was populated by people with the more tolerant Republican attitude of the day.

Some 50 years later in 1912, both New Mexico and Arizona achieved statehood. But leading up to that, a question remained as to whether the two territories would come into the U.S. as one, conjoined state. State historian Hendricks says that was the focus of a rancorous debate. Arizona newspapers backed by the powerful copper industry fueled the debate by labeling New Mexicans as "mongrels."

New Mexico joined the U.S. on January 6, 1912. Arizona was slated to do the same that day but instead opted to wait until February 14th, so it could commemorate the 50th anniversary of joining the Confederacy.

And in the intervening century, there has been no issue more divisive than the one now in play as Arizona asserts the right to determine immigration status at its choosing.

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