Rising Arizona: The Legacy of the Jim Crow Southwest on Immigration Law and Policy After 100 Years of Statehood

38 Pages Posted: 24 May 2014 Last revised: 20 Oct 2014

Date Written: May 22, 2014


United States immigration law and policy is one the most controversial issues of our day, and perhaps no location has come under more scrutiny for the way it has attempted to deal with the problem of undocumented immigration than the State of Arizona. Though Arizona recently became notorious for its “papers please” law, SB 1070, the American Southwest has long been a bastion of discriminatory race-based law and policy – immigration and otherwise – directed toward Latinos, American Indians, African-Americans, and other non-White racial and ethnic minorities. While largely ignored by both legal and American historians, the so-called “Jim Crow Southwest” nonetheless persisted throughout the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century in both the Arizona Territory and the State of Arizona, forming the basis for, and giving shape to, laws meant to exclude and limit the participation of non-White persons in Southwestern society.

The State of Arizona, the last of the forty-eight contiguous States to be admitted to the Union, marked its 100th year of statehood on February 14, 2012. A few months later, on June 25, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in United States v. Arizona, striking down the majority of Arizona’s aggressive state immigration enforcement law, S.B. 1070, as preempted by federal law. This Article discusses recent developments in Arizona immigration law and policy. By providing an overview of the history of race-based exclusion laws and policies in the Arizona Territory and the State of Arizona, it argues that Arizona’s modern anti-immigrant laws and policies are merely the newest incarnation of the State’s long history of discriminatory laws against racial and ethnic minorities, particularly Latinos and American Indians. In attempting to trace the genesis of racial animus toward non-Whites in the Southwest, Part I provides a historical overview of the Arizona Territory in the nineteenth century, including the development of the New Mexico Territory, the Confederate Territory of Arizona, and the impact of slavery and other race-based discrimination and exclusion laws in the Southwest. Part II discusses twentieth century race and immigration based policies in the Jim Crow Southwest that restricted and segregated the civil rights of non-Whites in the areas of marriage, education, and voting. Part III discusses the continuing legacy of the Jim Crow Southwest on the development of modern immigration law and policy in Arizona, and in particular, the aftermath of S.B. 1070’s passage in April 2010, Arizona’s subsequent rise as “ground zero” for state and local enforcement of immigration law in the United States, and the Supreme Court’s decisions in United States v. Arizona in 2012 and Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona in 2013. Finally, the article concludes by summarizing how the historical evidence presented in this paper rebuts the claim that only in recent years has Arizona begun to “drown[] in a sea of extremism” and become “the mecca for prejudice and bigotry,” and argues that Arizona has a long history of race-based exclusion laws and intolerance toward racial and ethnic minorities that has only now begun to garner attention on the national stage.

Suggested Citation

Campbell, Kristina Michelle, Rising Arizona: The Legacy of the Jim Crow Southwest on Immigration Law and Policy After 100 Years of Statehood (May 22, 2014). 24 Berkeley La Raza Law Journal 1, 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2440747

Kristina Michelle Campbell (Contact Author)

Gonzaga University - School of Law ( email )

721 N. Cincinnati Street
Spokane, WA 99220-3528
United States

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