Quick geography quiz: What borders the state of Arizona?
If you answered New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado and the country Mexico, give yourself a pat on the back. All correct!
If you forgot about Mexico, you might be inclined to sympathize with Milwaukee County Supervisor Peggy West, who made a very public geographic blunder Thursday when voicing her support of a proposed county boycott of Arizona businesses during a county board meeting. Her opposition (and that of several other county board members) was based on the state's controversial new immigration law, which mandates that police stop and card those they reasonably suspect of being illegal immigrants.
If this was Texas, which is a state that is directly on the border with Mexico, and they were calling for a measure like this, saying that they had a major issue with, you know, undocumented people flooding their borders, I would have to look twice at this.
But this is a state that is a ways removed from the border and it just doesn't make sense to me that when you Google this subject, if you put in Arizona SB-1070, that you see a picture of the governor of Arizona meeting with President Obama in May of 2010. ... If you have direct linkage to the president, there are already National Guard troops on the border in Arizona.
During and immediately following West's statement, there was an audible murmur from those assembled. Fellow County Supervisor Joe Rice jumped in and politely informed West that "Arizona does, in fact, share a border with the country of Mexico."
West later told local NBC affiliate WTMJ-4 that she "simply misspoke," and "did get a passing grade in geography in high school and in college and I do obviously know that Arizona is on the border."
But that was just the beginning of the fallout from West's remarks. Anti-illegal immigration activist group Stand With Arizona uploaded the incriminating video clip to YouTube on Thursday and it quickly permeated the conservativeblogosphere. Said bloggers were ruthless with the registered Democrat and the first Latina/Hispanic woman to be elected to the Milwaukee County Board, slamming her lack of intelligence.
By Friday, "Peggy West" even made it on the list of Google Trends, as one of the top 20 search queries that have had the most growth in the past few hours. Then U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R.-Ariz., managed to catch wind of the clip and fired off a pithy, instructive letter to West [PDF], reinforming her of the location of Arizona relative to the Mexican border, writing:
You will be interested to learn that Arizona does indeed share a border with Mexico. I have enclosed a map for your convenience. I hope you will take the time to actually read the Arizona law before formulating an opinion about it and become familiar with our country's geography and the challenges that our border states face.
Attached to the letter was a photocopied map of the United States, unlabeled, with the state of Arizona highlighted in bright yellow and an arrow pointing to it followed by "Arizona."
Surge Desk attempted to follow up with Kyl and West for comment on the incident, but we are still awaiting calls from both offices. Suffice to say, as the controversy continues over Arizona's tough immigration law, bloggers and lawmakers will not forget about West or her lapse anytime soon.
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