being good neighbors
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 8, 2005
A tree that lives in an
arroyo bottom is tough.
It weathers flash floods, droughts and exposure to searing heat.
But with deep roots, tough skin and a will to live, the tree hangs in
there and continues.
That tree is Phoenix. Teclo Garcia is the editor of ĦExtra! and an
assistant city editor at The Republic. Contact him at (602) 444-8281, or
Phoenix and its neighborhoods are in constant flux absorbing wave after
wave of immigrants, developments and cultural changes that are bending
the city but not yet breaking it. Still, especially in west, central and
south Phoenix, the situation is tough.
Many would have you believe that every ill the city deals with, such as
crime and overcrowding, is the fault of callous, careless undocumented
immigrants. They're wrong. Most immigrants, as President Bush says
often, are good people looking for a way to improve their lives.
Whether people admit it or not, the Arizona economy - your favorite
hotel or new housing development - needs them. Arizona business is
addicted to them. They are drywallers, dishwashers and dry-cleaners.
They contribute to our economy and our cultural diversity.
And I don't think the diversity is what rankles many Phoenix residents -
at least those who are really perturbed by illegal immigration and the
undocumented who are moving into their neighborhoods.
The e-mails and phone calls I've received and conversations I've had
with residents - Arizona-born Latinos and Anglos - have to deal with
respect. They tell me that when immigrants, legal or not, move in next
door or down the street, they don't acclimate themselves to their new
Basically, the new guys on the block behave and live like they are still
in the little Mexican ranch town they came from and not as if they live
in Phoenix, USA. The immigrants play their music too loud, they're not
that friendly, they have parties and don't invite neighbors, and they're
always working on their cars in the front yard.
I've heard the complaints over and over again, and longtime residents
have a good point.
One guy told me that he was angry that he couldn't buy an ice-cream cone
in his neighborhood anymore, and he blamed immigrants.
"Teclo, they closed down the Dairy Queen and turned it into a taco
place," the Maryvale man said.
Hey, I hear you. I love a dip cone any time of the day. I'm not trying
to make light of his situation, but these are many examples of friction
that are causing people to get hot under the collar.
Residents don't like strangers taking over their neighborhoods and
imposing different standards on them. Some immigrants don't care about
neighbors and their new world. Getting to Phoenix and finding work is
their only goal.
Others are not so callous, especially those with families. They send
their kids to school, try to keep a tidy home and invest in their
neighborhoods. I've heard from good people like this, too.
But that's what people ought to be doing. When I lived in England, I was
a proud American. A Yank, they called me. However, I did my best to
learn all I could about the Brits, was careful not to make any cultural
faux pas and took an interest in that culture.
Taking in what I heard at a recent neighborhood meeting in west Phoenix,
the popular sentiment from longtime Phoenix residents is that immigrants
are not showing a healthy respect for their new country. In short: they
are not being good neighbors.
And in life, especially if you're a deep-rooted tree not going anywhere,
you need good neighbors.