Truth Held Hostage: Dissecting the Lies about Kidnapping in Arizona


August 20, 2010

Arizona politicians who support the state’s sweeping anti-immigrant law (SB 1070) are not particularly fond of facts. For instance, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has made all manner of ludicrous statements about unauthorized immigrants typically carrying drugs, killing cops, and leaving headless bodies in the desert. But the most hypocritical of the anti-immigrant statements made by politicians such as Brewer concern kidnapping. Not only do Brewer and company pretend that kidnappers are lurking behind every corner in Arizona, but they usually neglect to mention that unauthorized immigrants are the primary victims of the kidnappings that do occur. In other words, the kidnapping of unauthorized immigrants is being used as a justification to crack down on unauthorized immigrants. This is a nonsensical policy that attacks the victims rather than the perpetrators of the crime.

The reality of most kidnappings in Arizona is captured in a new book by journalist Terry Greene Sterling, entitled Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone. Sterling recounts the terrifying experience of two unauthorized immigrants from Mexico—Rosario and Selestino—who were kidnapped for ransom by the smugglers (coyotes) they hired to bring them to the United States. After a five-day journey by foot through the desert, Rosario and Selestino, along with several other immigrants, were taken at gunpoint to a filthy “drop house” in a Phoenix suburb, told that the fee for smuggling them had nearly doubled, and threatened with death if they couldn’t produce the extra money.

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