Want to see America unraveling? Come here, to Thomas Road and 35th Street, to M. D. Pruitt’s furniture store. Come on Saturday morning and stand near the eight delivery trucks barricading the parking lot, like the wall of an urban Alamo.
For the last seven weeks, a sidewalk protest here by Latino immigrants has blossomed into a feverish reality show, attracting Minutemen, mariachis, children dancing in Mexican folk costumes, white racists, United Nations observers, Phoenix police officers and Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies.
The weekly confrontation — strident and stalemated — perfectly mimics the national debate. But it’s a sideshow to something even uglier: what happens when immigration’s complexities are handed to local law enforcers sympathetic to the fury of one side.
Thomas Road has lots of Latino day laborers, or jornaleros, who hustle for work near Home Depot. A few months ago, the Phoenix police shooed them away. They dispersed to streets nearby, angering local businesses. One of the biggest, Pruitt’s, hired off-duty city police officers to keep jornaleros at bay. The city put a stop to that, so Pruitt’s turned to the county sheriff, Joe Arpaio.
They also have an audio slideshow here.