In 2010, the Arizona Senate passed controversial immigration law SB1070, also known as the “papers please” law, igniting a national maelstrom. Supporters call it a common sense law-enforcement tool; opponents feel it will inevitably lead to racial profiling. Neighborhoods empty, businesses shutter, and immigrants flee the state. Those who choose to stay organize boycotts, mass demonstrations, daring acts of civil disobedience, and prepare families for the possibility of separation by sudden deportation.
Mixing in interviews with footage of heated protest rallies and television coverage, the film tells the stories of Arizonans on all sides of this divisive issue — activists, politicians, Latino immigrants, ranchers, controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the newly empowered Tea Party movement, for whom illegal immigration is a flashpoint subject — depicting a state and its people testing the edges of our democratic values.
Arizona’s enforcement-led policy, which grew out of its unique position as a frontline border state, is reshaping the national conversation around immigration reform. With dozens of states considering a similar approach, The State of Arizona holds up a mirror, asking Americans who they are, and who they want to be.