Migrants Sell Up, Flee Arizona Ahead of Crackdown

Tim Gaynor, Reuters, July 25, 2010

Nicaraguan mother Lorena Aguilar hawks a television set and a few clothes on the baking sidewalk outside her west Phoenix apartment block.

A few paces up the street, her undocumented Mexican neighbor Wendi Villasenor touts a kitchen table, some chairs and a few dishes as her family scrambles to get out of Arizona ahead of a looming crackdown on illegal immigrants.

“Everyone is selling up the little they have and leaving,” said Villasenor, 31, who is headed for Pennsylvania. “We have no alternative. They have us cornered.”

The two women are among scores of illegal immigrant families across Phoenix hauling the contents of their homes into the yard this weekend as they rush to sell up and get out before the state law takes effect on Thursday.

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The U.S. government estimates 100,000 unauthorized migrants left Arizona after the state passed an employer sanctions law three years ago requiring companies to verify workers’ status using a federal computer system. There are no figures for the number who have left since the new law passed in April.

Some are heading back to Mexico or to neighboring states. Others are staying put and taking their chances.

In a sign of a gathering exodus, Mexican businesses from grocers and butcher shops to diners and beauty salons have shut their doors in recent weeks as their owners and clients leave.

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LEGAL RESIDENTS FLEE

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Mexican housewife Gabriela Jaquez, 37, said she is selling up and leaving for New Mexico with her husband, who is a legal resident, and two children born in Phoenix.

“Under the law, if you transport an illegal immigrant, you are committing a crime,” she said as she sold children’s clothes at a yard sale with three other families. “They could arrest him for driving me to the shops.”

Lunaly Bustillos, a legal resident from Mexico, hoped to sell some clothes, dumbbells and an ornamental statue on Sunday before her family heads for Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Monday.

“It makes me sad and angry too because I feel I have the right to be here,” said Bustillos, 17, who recently graduated from high school in Phoenix.

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