After the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson that left six people dead and 14 injured, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona was caught in the center of a national debate about whether heated political rhetoric presents real-world dangers. But, according to experts who have studied the state’s history, aggressive discourse in Arizona is hardly a new issue, and is largely driven by a decades-old issue: border security.
The U.S.-Mexico border has become a driver for political debate across the country. But unlike, say, Maryland or Wisconsin or Maine, it’s much more of an immediate concern in Arizona. According to the Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies, the state’s southern border has become the main thoroughfare for illegal immigration and the smuggling of drugs into the United States. As Tucson Democrat Rep. Raul M. Grijalva says, it is “the epicenter.”