Is SB 1070 causing Latinos to leave Arizona? - East Valley Tribune: Immigration

Is SB 1070 causing Latinos to leave Arizona?

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Posted: Saturday, July 24, 2010 8:00 am | Updated: 6:37 pm, Wed Nov 26, 2014.

It is lunch hour at Del Yaqui Restaurant in Guadalupe, but the three-man crew is hardly getting slammed.

The only two patrons in the Mexican eatery, located in the Mercado shopping center, depart, but another walks in and is handed a menu by manager Eddie Martinez. The slow business has been typical in recent months.

The downturn, Martinez said, has one major signpost: In April, when Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, which requires law-enforcement officers, "when reasonable suspicion exists," to verify if a person is in the country legally. That law, barring a court-ordered injunction, takes effect on Thursday.

"I'd say that 95 percent of our business is Mexican," said Martinez, whose mother, Lupita, owns the restaurant. "And almost 90 percent of them were illegals. That's not hard math to figure out."

The restaurant's plight is not exclusive in the Mercado, a courtyard-style facility called "the height of Guadalupe's shopping experience" on the town's website. The once-bustling center was quiet on Friday, and a growing number of shops are vacant.

A few steps from the Del Yaqui Restaurant, a cell-phone store's front doors are secured shut by a lock and chain.

"The coffee shop was there for a long time, but they stopped making money," Martinez said. "The day laborers like to use those pay-as-you-go phones, but the cell-phone place stopped selling as many of those."

The economy has been a major factor. So is the weather, as outdoor activity always slows during an Arizona summer.

Despite the anecdotal evidence of a Hispanic exodus, Valley utility companies - Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project - report they're not seeing any increase in disconnections. In fact, both report disconnect requests the past few months are down compared to the same time last year. Neither company asks consumers for a reason when someone disconnects their service.

But Martinez and many others maintain Latinos are leaving, and the reason why keeps coming back to SB 1070.

"I think it's going to get a lot worse if the new law comes," Martinez said.

‘No more carniceria'

Customers have been dwindling in west Mesa stores that serve Hispanics for several years, but carniceria owner Juan Inigo said business plummeted 60 percent after Brewer signed SB 1070.

He figures that most of his customers are not here legally. He asks a Spanish-speaking customer in his El Tarachi carniceria what his plans are, and the man responds he's heading back to Mexico.

"They're scared," Inigo said. "Now the police, they ask you for the papers. They arrest you."

Some are holding out to see if the law goes into effect before leaving, Inigo said. If it does, he'll lose more customers and perhaps, he said, "no more carniceria here."

Inigo points to his kitchen to show how much business has dropped. He used to employ eight people behind the counter, but now has just two. He operates a store in Phoenix and another in Glendale, and business in both locations has slowed in similar fashion.

Inigo's carniceria and most of the shops in a strip center on Broadway Road, west of Country Club Drive serve primarily Hispanics, and most signs are in Spanish.

The Ledezma's Electronics store in the same center has lost 80 percent of its customers in two years, owner Henry Ledezma said. He figures many of his ex-customers are fleeing the state, half to Mexico, the rest to New Mexico.

Faith and fear

One measure of the Hispanic community's response to SB 1070 can be found in the church pews on Sunday.

"We have been seeing some population changes, especially in those (congregations) that serve the Hispanic population," said Greta Huls, spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona

at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Phoenix, where Spanish services are offered. "They've been seeing a definite drop."

"Rev. Canon Carmen B. Guerrero has had calls from lots of people packing up and going to other friendlier states," she said.

The church had two events planned this summer that were both cancelled because families were either afraid to travel across the state or afraid to be gone from their children, Huls said.

A prayer vigil is scheduled at the cathedral 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Thursday as part of a "Day of Non Compliance."

Families travel to worship at Trinity from as far away as Tempe, Mesa, Laveen and El Mirage.

Guerrero said she has seen families leaving both the cathedral and San Pablo Episcopal Church near Thomas Road and 32nd Street and moving to other states.

But at the same time, the churches have seen growing attendance on Sundays.

"Part of the reason, I think, is because of the support people feel at the cathedral," said Guerrero, an outspoken opponent of SB 1070. "I think it has turned into a place of refuge and support and knowing somebody cares."

Members of the church who work in the legal community have put together a guide for families "in case anything should happen," and Guerrero has distributed her cell phone number to children.

"The children watch the news. Some of the questions they've asked their parents (include), ‘What will happen to me if they take you away?' because the parents don't have documents yet the children are Americans because they were born here," Guerrero said.

Children's programs, too, are seeing the impact of Arizona's immigration and employee sanctions laws.

Mindee Padilla, spokeswoman for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the East Valley, said her group has seen a decrease in Hispanic enrollment for several years, especially at the Chandler and Mesa locations.

"Ever since the immigration topic became a hot topic two years ago, we definitely have seen a drop in some attendance in our Hispanic communities just because they're afraid to come out or let their children come to the club," Padilla said.

The clubs continue to do Spanish advertising, but haven't seen much of a response.

"It's a culture. Once they fear, it's hard to get them back. It's not something that's happening now because of SB 1070. It's been a gradual process that people are just staying home," she said.

Apartments for rent

It is too soon to tell how SB 1070 has affected rental vacancy rates, said Peter TeKampe, vice president of investments at the Phoenix office of Markus & Millichap, a real estate-investment firm.

However, TeKampe said, the "damage was already done" after then-Gov. Janet Napolitano in 1997 signed a law that cracks down on employers who hire undocumented workers. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeal arguments on the law.

Vacancy rates in Class-C (the lowest) apartments in the Phoenix area rose from 5 percent to more than 20 percent after the employer-sanctions law went into effect, TeKampe said.

"That bill did a lot of damage to Class C -- absolutely killed it," TeKampe said. "Some buildings are at 50-percernt vacancy, and I've talked to every landlord in those areas. ...

"I could show you numbers for every Class-C rental market -- downtown/central Mesa, Central Phoenix/Black Canyon, west Phoenix, west central Phoenix, any area with a heavy Hispanic population, everyone saw increased vacancies. People aren't going to stick around if there are no jobs for them."

Hurting an honest living

Tony Montero, the owner of Aliberto's Mexican Food, a small road stand and eatery at 263 W. University Drive in Mesa, said that within the last year, business has declined a good 75 to 80 percent. And he, too, is considering closing his business, pending the fallout from SB 1070.

Montero said he has been at the University Drive location for about 10 years.

"It's horrible," Montero said. "When (Maricopa County Sheriff Joe) Arpaio started doing his crime sweeps, people became scared and started moving out. There's a huge possibility that I can close. Here we are making an honest living and we're being targeted. These laws have been very hurtful, but it will hurt the state most of all."

Arpaio's image is just as disconcerting in Guadalupe, which was the target of crime sweeps by the sheriff's office in 2008.

Martinez said some among his restaurant's clientele are fearful of more sweeps should SB 1070 go into effect. By contract, the sheriff's office is the primary law-enforcement agency for Guadalupe.

"We had a picture of him up here, kind of as a joke," Martinez said. "But he got mad and started ripping it up. You see that kind of tension about it."

Myra Torres, the manager for Aliberto's, said the business has been robbed three times in about the last three months, and the restaurant always has to call police and make a report.

"How do we know if we can call 911?" Torres said. "People are scared that if the police come here and start questioning people, they will be arrested."

Montero and Torres both said they know people who are planning to move away, people who have lived here a long time, who have worked hard and have no criminal histories, they said.

"Separation of family is a big factor," Montero said.

But would he relocate?

"Yes," he said. "To Mexico with no money."

Tribune reporters Michelle Reese, Garin Groff and Mike Sakal contributed to this story.

 

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