Arizona didn't turn into a pressure cooker for immigration reform overnight, historians say.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
New laws coming out of the state have made it a staging area for a national debate – and a federal-state court battle – over whether the states or federal government should control immigration.
It was Operation Blockade in El Paso (1993) and Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego (1994) which closed off what had been the two busiest sectors for undocumented migration, “accounting for at least three quarters of the traffic,” says Doug Massey, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. “This diverted the flows through the Sonoran desert into Arizona, which until then had been a quiet backwater both with respect to border crossing and immigration settlement,” he says.