Brought to the United States by their families as children, about 65,000 of these kids graduate from American high schools every year. A lot have made it through college, on private scholarships, with honors.

But they can't legally work in the United States, even though they self-identify as Americans.

By now, most of us have heard of the federal legislation called the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented high school grads with no criminal records temporary legal residency so they could attend college or trade school or join the military. They'd get green cards only after living up to their end of the bargain. Then, eventually, they'd qualify for citizenship. They'd work, pay taxes, shore up the middle class, and strengthen the military if they only had a chance, their advocates say.

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Editor’s note: Former New Times staff writer Terry Greene Sterling is the author of the new book Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone and is writer-in-residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Jennifer Gaie Hellum assisted with research on white-nationalist groups. Sterling's personal Web site is www.terrygreenesterling.com.

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The law has been introduced every year since 2001, and it's getting a last-chance airing as 2010 draws to a close.

FAIR has successfully blocked DREAM Act legislation, decrying it as closeted amnesty for illegal aliens and condemning it as an incentive for further illegal immigration into the United States.

In Arizona, DREAMers face fierce opposition. In an October 12 fundraising e-mail addressed to "American Patriots Opposing the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Lame-Duck Amnesty" a group called Ban Amnesty Now sought contributions to help Russell Pearce and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio fight the "DREAM Act nightmare."

Ban Amnesty Now is a Phoenix-based "national educational and research association" run by Sean McCaffrey, a local Republican operative, and its honorary chairs are Bay Buchanan (she's Pat's sister and Tom Tancredo's co-chair in the anti-immigration Team America PAC), Arpaio, Tancredo, and Pearce.

It's easy enough to connect it to the FAIR sisterhood — Ban Amnesty Now posted a blog by Mark Krikorian, head of the CIS, on its Web site. In the blog, Krikorian discusses rural-to-urban immigration patterns and refers to unauthorized Mexican immigrants in the United States as Mexico's "excess peasantry."


Two days before November's midterm election, state Senator Russell Pearce sent an e-mail to constituents, reminding them of that $2.7 billion "cost of illegal immigration" to Arizona taxpayers and of the many rapes, murders, and child molestations purportedly committed by Mexicans who jump the fence.

"Rancher Rob Krentz was murdered by the drug cartel on his ranch," Pearce wrote.

It was a wildly irresponsible statement.

In March, after Krentz was gunned down a few miles north of the Mexican border ("Badlands, June 3, "Cowboy Down," June 10), Tancredo, who had just visited the area, blamed the murder on a drug-smuggling Mexican illegal.

Then, Pearce repeated the allegation, and it went viral on extremist Web sites. Soon, it seemed most Arizonans believed it.

Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said trackers had followed footprints from the murder site clear to the Mexican border. Next, Dever released a mug shot of a fierce-looking Mexican "investigative lead" named Alejandro Chavez Vazquez, a.k.a. Armando Chacon Gonzales.

Vazquez reportedly had been deported once and was suspected of burglaries in Portal, Arizona, a town about 60 miles east of Krentz Ranch, authorities said. He lived across the border from Douglas in Agua Prieta, Sonora, they said.

That was news to the mayor of Agua Prieta, who told a Tucson television reporter: "Nobody knows him. He's never been here, and I'm pretty sure he's not here."

The Krentz murder remains unsolved.

The killing had a profound influence on the passage of SB 1070 because Pearce and Tancredo used it to set off a fear-of-Mexicans wave in Arizona.

Grim-faced borderlands ranchers in their cowboy hats stood by Russell Pearce's side in front of TV cameras at the Arizona Capitol on the day SB 1070 faced its biggest challenge — passing through the Arizona House, where moderate Republicans could have blocked it.

In the end, all House Republicans voted in support of the law, caving to widespread fear of the Mexican-immigrant menace.

Politicians and anti-immigrant groups seized on the Krentz killing as political gold and clamored for more border security. The Mexican drug war, which had taken more than 23,000 lives in three years in that country, was sneaking into Arizona, they suggested.

Not a single anti-SB 1070 politico bothered to report that, in Cochise County, where Krentz was gunned down, Dever's office had linked (as of June) just two murders to illegal immigrants.

In both cases, the murder victims, not the killers, had crossed the border without papers.


Governor Jan Brewer spoke of drug-related beheadings in the desert, and she famously announced that most Mexican immigrants were drug mules.

The beheadings-in-the-desert/all-illegals-are-drug-mules stories were patently false.

Contrary to Brewer's assertions, border counties and cities have experienced declining crime rates, and border cities were among the safest in the nation, according to the FBI. The Associated Press crunched FBI numbers in June and found that violent crime was down 15 percent in Arizona.

Crime studies show again and again that immigrants do not commit as many violent crimes as their native-born counterparts.

And areas with larger populations of unauthorized migrants actually experience reduced crime rates, according to the progressive Immigration Policy Center.

Despite all this, when Arizonans were polled after the passage of SB 1070, they voiced mounting fear over border security — meaning, crimes committed by Mexicans on Americans.

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