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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Arizona’s other immigration crisis

    Every year, many thousands of immigrants flood into Arizona, and the government does nothing to stop them.

    This immigrant crisis has taken its toll. Many of these people refuse to assimilate; they continue to speak their own separate dialect, maintain a foreign lifestyle and strain our economy by requiring new infrastructure and expanded public services. They are ripping apart our culture and way of life.

    I’m talking, of course, about out-of-staters. The refusal of out-of-staters to adapt to life in Arizona jeopardizes the survival of our state’s distinct culture and way of life. If Arizonans don’t demand assimilation now, our state will become just another star on the flag, a stereotyped shell of its former individuality.

    Arizona’s entire history is based on immigration. The Spanish, Mexican and American cultures are but a few of the many that have shaped Arizona’s unique heritage. These are all historically recent immigration. Many of the state’s indigenous peoples, though predating European settlement, are relatively recent arrivals themselves – archaeological evidence shows that the Navajo and Apache, for example, arrived less than 1,000 years ago. The resultant mestizo culture is like a sturdy cornmeal made of many distinct kernels, patiently ground by the mano and matate of centuries of cultural exchange – not that an out-of-stater would appreciate that simile.

    Arizonans are independent and cherish personal freedom, as seen in our right-to-work legislation, open-carry gun laws and hard-line sheriffs. Arizonans are not people of talk, but of action, as shown by Gov. Benjamin B. Moeur’s 1935 dispatch of armed troops to the California border to protect our river water. Arizona takes the boom with the bust, the drought with the rain. We welcome challenge, we thrive in adversity and we take pride in overcoming hardship by our own means. Arizona is a rough, unpredictable and dangerous place. These traits have woven themselves into the fabric of our local culture out of necessity. In the past, a person could not survive Arizona if they were not able to adapt, toughen up and persevere.

    Now, however, immigrants have the ability to tether themselves to their “”home cultures.”” Whereas past immigrants had to adapt to survive, current immigrants can choose whether or not to assimilate. Technology can help personal relationships endure distance, chill the hottest summer days and enable safe travel through the most desolate areas. Now, even home-grown Arizonans can eschew the local lifestyle in favor of a TV-imported one. By adding the fundamentally incompatible influence of a foreign culture, one that is not modified or constrained by an extreme environment, we risk Arizona’s functional uniqueness.

    Many out-of-staters have assimilated, some seamlessly, by embracing the traditions of the state. Without sacrificing their individuality, they have modeled their lifestyles in a way that is compatible with the preexisting culture. It’s easy for some: New Mexicans and Sonorans come from similar places and thus experience a smoother transition (i.e., no complaints about desert landscaping). Others have to work hard to shed the latent influence of a very different culture. Either way, people like these are exemplary interstate migrants. Unfortunately, they are also exceptional in the literal sense of the word.

    Others don’t assimilate socially. Their urban lifestyle is incompatible with Arizona’s predominantly rural heritage, based mainly on mining and ranching. Urban immigrants create a subculture of dependence: The newcomers demand pavement, climate control and tract housing, all of which reflect their complete indifference to the land. They rally against landscape-scarring mining operations, inherently stinky dairy farms, liberal gun laws, obnoxious train noise and other quintessentially Arizonan “”problems”” that have been here far longer than the average out-of-stater. This is the rejection of the very elements that make Arizona the state it is. It is intolerable.

    Even worse, many don’t even assimilate linguistically. They trip over words like tortilla, fajita and saguaro. They botch names such as Gila Bend, the Mogollon Rim and Nogales. Their mispronunciations of Spanish loanwords pale in comparison, however, to the way they butcher their native tongue. Whether “”pahking cahs”” or “”chillin’ with broskis,”” out-of-staters hang on to their non-standard English, a noticeable earsore in a state with “”broadcast English.”” Hell knows no punishment like a Mexican menu read in thick East Coast noise.

    Plenty of out-of-staters have fully assimilated, adopting the culture and traditions of their new home state; many others simply hang a Kokopelli wind chime on their patio and call it a day. Here’s my challenge to the latter: Drive on a dirt road, take short showers, go hiking, drink tap water, eat real Mexican food and just do some of the rough-and-tumble things that Arizonans do. Change your mindset and your lifestyle to adapt to the culture that precedes you … If you do a good job, you might pass for a local. But if you are unwilling to assimilate, pack up the SUV, hop on the highway and give us back our state.

    Mike Hathaway is a senior majoring in geography and Spanish and Portuguese. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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