The Tucson Secession?

By: Daniel Nardini

There seems to be a major conflict within the State of Arizona. The conflict seems to eminate between the southern part of Arizona where Tucson is situated and the northern part of Arizona where Phoenix—the state capital—is situated. Just last week the school board of the City of Tucson made it clear they do not want to implement the statewide ethnic studies ban and have even instituted a federal court lawsuit against it. In one school, students crashed a Tucson school district meeting and chained themselves to their chairs in protest of the statewide ethnic studies ban. To make things more interesting, a newly formed group named the Start Our State are seriously talking about seceding from the rest of Arizona and calling for a newly created state called Arizona Sur (south).

You are probably wondering what is happening with all of this. I will try to explain. Geography and history are in large measure why this conflict within the same state is taking place. The northern part of Arizona in large part is more like that of northern Texas—more grassy and temperate climate. Southern Arziona is more like desert. Tucson has a much longer history. Founded in the 1600’s by the Spanish, the area now known as Pima County has long been a major point of different cultures and peoples. There are many people of Spanish, Mexican and Native American as well as European white origin in southern Arizona.

Phoenix was founded in the 1860’s, and the area now known primarily as Maricopa County was settled largely by European white immigrants. In the early 20th Century, when Arizona became a state, Phoenix became the capital. This has always meant that there has been a north-south divide in the same state. This divide has always been there, and now it has been made worse by the reactionary politics of the people running the state legislature in Phoenix.

The anti-immigration law, SB 1070, is to put it mildly wildly unpopular in southern Arizona. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has made it clear that he does not intend to enforce this state law. The ethnic studies ban, SB 2281, has met with resistance all over southern Arizona, and many students have even taken their protests—despite the danger of being arrested—to the state capital. Now there is talk of secession by certain people in southern Arizona from the rest of Arizona. Personally, I do not see secession happening. However, the feelings among many people in southern Arizona—especially the state’s Mexican American community—is very bitter and causing serious division all through the state itself.

With more reactionary legislation coming out of Phoenix this animosity can only grow. The possibility of legislation denying birth certificates to the U.S.-born children of the undocumented has many people in southern Arizona up in arms. This legislation, like all the rest, not only denies the constitutional rights of many residents in Arizona under the U.S. Constitution but also under the state constitution. These laws are driving a sharp divide between the more culturally diverse south and the more white north. It is a divide being played out in every community and just about every town and city in Arizona. The worst part is that this can also eventually be played out in other parts of the United States. The dangers are real enough.

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