I’d like to give some heartfelt props to the anonymous government official who leaked details about the investigation into the murder of rancher Robert Krentz to the Arizona Daily Star — namely, that the prime suspect isn’t a random immigrant or drug lord crossing back into Mexico (as so many alleged) but someone in the United States.
Rob Krentz, you see, was invoked by everyone from John McCain on down as the patron saint of punitive anti-immigration measures. His death was Exhibit A in the case that undocumented immigrants were wreaking untold havoc on the Arizona border, and if it took everything from calling National Guard troops to the border to passing SB 1070 to stop the madness, so be it.
As it turns out, not only was the Krentz murder not what it’s been made out to be, but the wave of border violence itself is a myth. The Arizona Republic reported over the weekend that while the Mexican side of the border has descended into chaos, crime rates on the U.S. side have remained flat for the last decade. Arizonans, I think it’s fair to say you’ve been had.
Defenders of the law within Arizona and elsewhere have been quick to point out that we coastal elites just don’t know how it feels to live in Arizona right now, to feel under siege and unprotected. But many of the same people now saying that Arizona’s actions are justified by its citizens’ siege mentality turn out to be the ones who were creating that siege mentality all along by repeating lies about border lawlessness and the person who killed Robert Krentz. And I’ve seen far too many Scrupulously Levelheaded Commentators — even those attacking SB 1070 — accept that panic is the Popular Mood without asking from where (and whom) it came.
I’d never argue that some people’s feelings and experiences are illegitimate just because they contradict Established Fact, and I don’t doubt that a lot of Arizonans really do feel under siege. But I think it’s hard for anyone to say, definitively, that they’d feel just the same if public figures weren’t telling them to be afraid.
I keep thinking back, too, to the press conference Jan Brewer held when she signed SB 1070, during which she kept repeating “we can move forward if people remain calm and understand what’s in the bill and understand how it’s going to affect them.” That’s not how fear works, I thought at the time. Did Brewer realize how she sounded by saying (more or less) that if Latinos just calmed down and understood what the nice white people in the State House had done to protect them, they’d be appreciative? Did she think that was all it would take? Did she think the legal niceties were really going to make the difference when people felt they were under attack?
Even if Jan Brewer really was that naive, it’s all too clear now that other members of her party understood how fear really works; they’d been whipping up industrial-sized batches of it with lies about the death of Robert Krentz.
Apparently when white people feel under siege due to a made-up crime wave, everyone else needs to understand where they’re coming from. When brown people feel under siege due to the likely consequences of a law — well, whoa there. They need to calm down.
Permadisclaimer: my opinions on immigration politics and policy are entirely my own and are in no way associated with my employer or any other organization.