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Immigration: From Florida to Arizona, and Hispanics to Native Americans—A Topic of Interest

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Arizona has SB 1070, Florida has roughly 1.5 million Hispanic voters and leading Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has activists asking why he would veto the DREAM Act. All three are related and will be in the news a lot this year, but they will be summed up with one word – immigration.

Recently, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer made headlines when President Barack Obama made a visit to Arizona. Brewer barely gave the president a chance to get off his flight before speaking her mind. The two have come to blows over immigration issues, as Brewer feels the federal government has not lived up to its promise, which forced her hand and the signing of SB 1070. A law that gives Arizona law officials the right to require proper documentation from anyone they feel may be an illegal immigrant.

Florida’s Hispanic voting population has been a primary focus this week, as the remaining four Republican Presidential candidates: Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are in Florida for primaries. At the debate held January 26, Gingrich went on the attack when the discussion turned to immigration, by saying Romney was the most anti-immigrant of all the candidates according to the Associated Press. The debate followed a week where the lead candidates met with key Latino groups in hopes to build a following in a community that could swing the momentum of the race in their favor early on.

With the Hispanic vote being a major factor in Florida, activists in support of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) have made their views known, more often than not addressing the issues with Romney. The DREAM Act, is a potential law to help undocumented youth become citizens through different criteria. Activists have been on hand at a fundraiser Romney was at in New York recently and in Florida voicing their concerns to Romney’s stance of vetoing the Dream Act if it came up.

Immigration has been a perennial issue in the United States, one that began for Indians with the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Native Americans know first-hand what immigration feels like; they know what it feels like to be pushed off their land. For some the discussion of immigration will always be fraught with conflict.

In this April 4, 2013 file photo, a truck carrying 250 tons of coal hauls the fuel to the surface of the Cloud Peak Energy's Spring Creek mine near Decker, Montana.

In this April 4, 2013 file photo, a truck carrying 250 tons of coal hauls the fuel to the surface of the Cloud Peak Energy's Spring Creek mine near Decker, Montana.

As Erny Zah, Navajo Nation President’s spokesman, recently told Indian Country Today Media Network that Navajo people are divided on Arizona’s SB 1070, especially because some families include in-laws that have come across the border.

“If you support the law, you are anti- some Navajo families,” he explained. “If you don’t, then you’re advocating for some of the illegal immigration.”

Even with the conflicting feelings on immigration, the controversial SB 1070 can be seen as detrimental to American Indians, as can any immigration law if not thought out properly. Just look at the first immigrants to arrive on Turtle Island.