“Everything has changed now,” said Regina Romero, the Democratic mayor of Tucson whose parents emigrated from Sonora, Mexico, with her older siblings. “But if anything, it has made the public sentiment shift in our favor. People here understand that we need people to come from Mexico to fuel our economy. People here understand more and more that this is about a strength, not a threat.”
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Kassie Waters, a 33-year-old medic in Tucson, said that four years ago, immigration was close to the top of her list of most important political issues. But this year, the mother of three, whose husband works as a police officer, said she is more concerned about “rioters, looters and police officers being prosecuted for doing their jobs.”
“Four years ago, my concerns were totally different — immigration was a big one,” said Ms. Waters, who attended a recent book signing with Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County Sheriff who championed draconian immigration policies. Ms. Water, who voted for the president in 2016 and plans to do so again this year, said that Mr. Trump is still backing law enforcement by focusing on cities rather than the border and said she had no problem that “the issue of immigration has been put on the back burner.”
Many Latino families in Arizona have mixed immigration status — undocumented immigrant parents, for example, who raise children who have received DACA or who are U.S.-born citizens. Putting immigration on “the back burner” is not an option for them. In the southern part of the state, many families have for generations routinely gone back and forth over the border, living a kind of binational life.
And many young Latino voters formed their own political identity in the wake of anti-immigration sentiments in the early 2000s, and the issue remains resonant.
“This isn’t some abstract concept for us, some theoretical attack — this is something that impacts the way the world sees us, the way we are treated,” said Graciela Martinez, 34, who works in marketing in Phoenix. “We’ve had to fight for everything we have, and we have to keep fighting.”