Arizona Dispatches: The ‘Talk’ of the Valley and an Illegal Immigrant’s Tale

BY Tom LeGro  July 30, 2010 at 5:10 PM EST

PHOENIX | Much has been made in recent months of the day that Senate Bill 1070 — Arizona’s controversial immigration law — would go into effect. Everyone was waiting, debating, preparing.

In the end, after Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling, nothing seemed settled. As Ray Suarez put it, “Here we were, working up to this great big confrontation, and it sort of ends with a whimper rather than with a bang.”

And because Bolton tossed out the more controversial aspects of the law but left alone several others, both sides feel at least partially unsatisfied. On one hand, supporters of SB 1070 are disappointed that law enforcement weren’t given more power to verify a person’s immigration status. On the other, those against the law point to remaining provisions dealing with day laborers and an already aggressive law enforcement.

We now present two views on the immigration reform debate — one from a conservative talk show host and his audience, the other from an illegal immigrant whose wife faces deportation.

First up, KFYI’s Newstalk 550 radio host Jim Sharpe is an SB-1070 supporter. He’s disappointed after the judge’s decision, but doesn’t feel defeated. He’s confident that the struck down provisions will eventually pass in the higher courts. We spoke with him at his studio this week in downtown Phoenix:

But in Chicano and Latino communities, where many residents have been protesting the law while simultaneously preparing for its impact, Judge Bolton’s decision was received with relief.

Ever since the law was signed in April, community activists in neighborhoods across Phoenix have been holding information meetings about SB 1070. At these meetings, often held in houses and backyards, illegal immigrants gather to learn about their legal rights, paths to citizenship and, in many cases, the process of deportation.

At one such meeting this week, we met Rigoberto Lopez, who has been in the United States illegally for 10 years. Lopez was at the meeting because his wife, also an illegal immigrant, is in jail. Lopez is now caring for his two young daughters with no other family or friends to ask for help. He’s trying to make plans for his family’s future.

Lopez’s situation is not unique, however. In fact, he shares a tiny house with another man who’s also caring for his daughters while their mother is in jail awaiting deportation.

Despite Wednesday’s ruling, the community meetings will continue. Activists and illegal immigrants know the law’s provisions will move on to be argued in higher courts. They say they will still be targeted. After all, Lopez’s wife was arrested well before SB 1070. The Lopez family’s story, like SB 1070′s, is not over.