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As Arizona moves right on immigration, Nogales pushes to the left for survival

Arizona has gone for Republicans in every presidential election of the last 70 years except one — in 1996 it narrowly slid over for President Bill Clinton. While this is usually attributed to the Ross Perot’s strong showing in the state snagging nearly 8 percent of votes in the state, the Democrats held hopes of turning the state into a swing state. It made sense at the time: Growing demographic shifts thanks in part to a large Hispanic population combined with the state’s historic penchant for moderates, even electing democrats to congress and statewide offices with some regularity. But the issues that matter most to many Arizonans are of the law-and-order variety, and being a border state illegal immigration has been a hot button since before it was even a state.

There are, however, Democrat strongholds in Arizona. The border town of Nogales is one such and sits in the bluest county in the state, Santa Cruz. 80 percent of the county is of Hispanic descent, and Nogales proper is about 95 percent. Hillary Clinton trounced Donald Trump nearly 4-1 here, one of her strongest showings nationwide.

Elsewhere in the state, Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric has played pretty well. He narrowly won the state thanks in part to his stance on the issue. Across the state, residents fear the economic repercussions of heavy illegal immigration, thinking jobs will be lost and taxpayers will be on the hook for welfare and entitlement programs. Highly publicized criminal acts by immigrants haven’t helped matters much either, despite the fact that immigrants as a whole are less prone to committing crime than citizens.

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Nogales, left, and Sonora, Mexico on the right

For the residents on the borderlands, especially hispanic people, opposing Trump is also both an economic and safety issue. Most are citizens, but some still have family and connections south of the border. Additionally, many employers are beginning to grow wary of hiring hispanic people which, while illegal, is still in practice due to crackdowns on hiring undocumented workers. Many also fear race-based harassment and attacks which are just as rare as crimes committed by immigrants in the state.

In Nogales, these fears have led to a vehement opposition to President Trump and his appeal to nativist sentiment. There is a palpable dread hanging over the community as many fear for their safety, and citizens and immigrants alike have fears of being targeted for harassment by both law enforcement as well as extremist groups like the Minutemen Project. Resistance is not just a matter of politics, it’s a matter of feeling safe in their own communities.

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The border fence near Nogales
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