East Valley residents aligned themselves Monday on opposite sides of the immigration reform controversy, as thousands of National Guard troops prepare to fortify the border.
Some who live and work illegally in the East Valley said putting National Guard troops on the border will aggravate an already tense situation. However, other East Valley citizens lent their support to the troops and the ongoing struggle to contain illegal immigration across Arizona’s southern border.
According to a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants live and work in the United States.
One of them, Dalia de la Rosa, rounded up her four children Monday at a Mesa shopping center. The 38-yearold homemaker said she had crossed the border illegally from Jalisco, Mexico, 15 years ago.
De la Rosa said that the presence of the National Guard at the border might erode a situation already marred by danger and tension. She was worried about her nephew in Mexico. He is trying to cross illegally.
“It’s already dangerous and with the soldiers, it’s going to be a lot worse,” de la Rosa said.
De la Rosa’s four children, ages 1 to 14, represent a mere fraction of the 3.1 million children in the United States whose parents are undocumented, according to Pew.
Pew says 53 percent of Americans believe people here illegally should be sent home, while 40 percent believe they should be given some sort of legal status.
Anthony De Patty, a citizen in Mesa, said he supported the troops because the flow of illegal immigration was potentially dangerous.
“I think that it’s a good idea,” he said of stationing troops along the border to prevent illegal crossings. “You never know who’s coming through.”
The 43-year-old, a cashier at Wal-Mart, said illegal immigrants are a tax burden on Americans.
“I was the manager at a car wash and I know they had undocumented workers there,” he said. “They never paid any federal taxes. If they’re going to be here working, they may as well pay taxes.”
Many immigrants have said they come to the United States for a better life. And Luis Zamarripa, an undocumented worker in Mesa, said he believes most illegal immigrants “do it out of need.”
Undocumented workers are a significant part of the labor force, Pew says. They make up 24 percent of all farm workers, 17 percent of those in cleaning, 14 percent in construction and 12 percent in food preparation. On average, they each bring home $300 a week.
Zamarripa, a 21-year-old loading dock worker, offered a piece of advice to potential border crossers: “Be careful. You don’t know who is out there. There might be armed people carrying drugs.”
Zamarripa said he came to the United States two years ago from Guanajuato, Mexico.
Meanwhile, at a Mesa bowling alley, Chris Tedder talked about his father and a brother who served in the National Guard.
Tedder, of Gilbert, said he was extremely proud of both. He added that his father and brother wouldn’t object to going to full mobilization from the one-weekend-a-month service typical of guardsmen.
“I don’t think they would react at all to serving their country by preventing illegal aliens from getting across the border,” said Tedder, a 29-year-old businessman.
Over 3,000 guardsmen have been activated since September 11, 2001, according to National Guard officials. Currently, 742 of these troops are on active duty to help national security efforts, support law enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol.
He said American workers have a hard time competing with undocumented workers accustomed to earning low wages.
“They’re working a lot cheaper than what regular Americans will work for,” he said. “I don’t think that pride or race has anything to do with it. But if someone’s here illegally, they shouldn’t be here.”