From Mob Violence to Saturation Patrols: The History of Anti-Mexican Violence in Arizona and the Rise of Sheriff Arpaio
By Irene Sanchez
The Southwest Political Report
Nativism. Last semester the students I see daily asked what nativism is and what it isn’t. They now understand it as a particular type of racism that is anti-immigrant, labeling some as (perpetual) foreigners and undeserving to be here in the U.S. That some do not have a right to exist on lands that nativists think is theirs due to their belief that it was their “god-given” rights or manifest destiny that they fulfilled. The students ask aloud, well who says THEY get to say some are undeserving, why do THEY get to be here no matter what kind of violence they enact and lives they have taken in order to get that land?
The fact of the matter is that there are some who defined history for us and now we must fight for our own stories to have a place. We talked about current events and try to figure out how they are tied to the past and how in Arizona they ban things, like the books we use in our class, they banned classes like our class, our language, and more. All of these things combined is an attempt to ban our very existence.
At the start of this new year, I had to tell them about Joe Arpaio and the atrocities and inhumane treatment he has perpetrated against immigrants because we speak of current events and they should know. I explain to them that this is why we must continue with our history text because history tends to … I pause and a student completes my sentence, “repeat itself.”
Most of what is now known as Arizona was included in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. For the southern part of what is now Arizona that wasn’t included was taken with the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 for $10 million dollars. Claims that land was needed for railroads was used to justify this “purchase” when in reality anti-Mexican violence was so horrific post the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and with the U.S. officials saying they would take the land, Mexicans in Arizona had little choice.
In 1860 as stated in Occupied America by Rudy Acuna, 70 percent of Tuscon’s population was Mexican. When Arizona became a territory public education was brought to Arizona and money was then given to establish Tucson Public Schools with the requirement that English would be part of the curriculum as a requirement to gain funding from the legislature. If English is part of the curriculum and mandatory, what did that mean for any other language that was spoken on these lands? It meant they had to kill it.
Much of this time period was marked by anti-Mexican violence and the lynching of Mexicans in the Southwestern part of the United States. In order to understand present day racism and nativism that is faced, these facts must not be ignored. There is precedent and years of justification they have used to make us believe that we are less than. This violence and oppression continues in the state of Arizona especially as we have seen with the recent Ethnic Studies ban that was later struck down as racist in the courts.
Joe Arpaio deemed himself as “America’s toughest sheriff.” He has gained notoriety off of being a racist nativist. His inhumane practices as Sheriff included the opening of a tent city jail in 1993 that had the people who were imprisoned in them endure hot weather under a relentless desert sun. Arpaio would also run mug shot of the day contests. It was likened to a concentration camp for undocumented immigrants on more than one occasion and even by Arpaio himself. Arpaio built a reputation that kept getting him re-elected off of inhumane and cruel treatment yet there were some who kept asking how did this go on for so long?
How has all of this gone on for so long? How has Trump been in office so long with his low behavior and how is Arpaio now running for Senate? Arpaio was facing jail time for his targeting and racially profiling and detaining of Latinos. This announcement comes months after he was pardoned for his crimes by Trump. Now we are asking again how can this happen? How can this monster be running for U.S. senate?
It is like how it has always been. Arpaio while Sheriff was also responsible for targeting and patrolling neighborhoods and areas with higher populations of Latinos. They called this “saturation patrols” that mainly took place in the Phoenix area. These patrols racially profiled Latinos in which large amounts of people were taken into custody and then turned over to immigration officials. All of this is reminiscent of a past marked by mob violence and vigilante groups who would patrol Mexican neighborhoods to drive out people post 1848 where Mexicans were victims for having committed no crimes other than existing. Mexicans were often lynched in this time period as well (See Acuna’s Occupied America).
There is a sense of empowerment of racists as they have become more emboldened following the election of Trump, but we must remember Arpaio already existed. So many like them already existed. So when it is asked why is this happening? As the co-founder of this political report, Matt Sedillo and myself have presented on, talked about, and used as the basis to begin this blog, I will continue to say look at history in order to understand the present. History repeats itself and…
The Mexican American War Never Ended.
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Photo: ABC News