Migrants sell up, flee Arizona ahead of crackdown

* Tough state immigration crackdown starts on Thursday

* Boom in yard sales as migrants sell off belongings

* Legal residents, US-born children join scramble to leave

By Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX, July 25 (BestGrowthStock) – Nicaraguan mother Lorena
Aguilar hawks a television set and a few clothes on the baking
sidewalk outside her west Phoenix apartment block.

A few paces up the street, her undocumented Mexican
neighbor Wendi Villasenor touts a kitchen table, some chairs
and a few dishes as her family scrambles to get out of Arizona
ahead of a looming crackdown on illegal immigrants.

“Everyone is selling up the little they have and leaving,”
said Villasenor, 31, who is headed for Pennsylvania. “We have
no alternative. They have us cornered.”

The two women are among scores of illegal immigrant
families across Phoenix hauling the contents of their homes
into the yard this weekend as they rush to sell up and get out
before the state law takes effect on Thursday.

The law, the toughest imposed by any U.S. state to curb
illegal immigration, seeks to drive more than 400,000
undocumented day laborers, landscapers, house cleaners,
chambermaids and other workers out of Arizona, which borders
Mexico.

It makes being an illegal immigrant a state crime and
requires state and local police, during lawful contact, to
investigate the status of anyone they reasonably suspect of
being an illegal immigrant.

The U.S. government estimates 100,000 unauthorized migrants
left Arizona after the state passed an employer sanctions law
three years ago requiring companies to verify workers’ status
using a federal computer system. There are no figures for the
number who have left since the new law passed in April.

Some are heading back to Mexico or to neighboring states.
Others are staying put and taking their chances.

In a sign of a gathering exodus, Mexican businesses from
grocers and butcher shops to diners and beauty salons have shut
their doors in recent weeks as their owners and clients leave.

On Saturday and Sunday, Reuters counted dozens of impromptu
yard sales in Latino neighborhoods in central and west
Phoenix/

“They wanted to drive Hispanics out of Arizona and they
have succeeded even before the law even comes into effect,”
said Aguilar, 28, a mother of three young children who was also
offering a few cherished pictures and a stereo at one of five
sales on the same block.

She said she had taken in just $20 as “everyone is selling
and nobody wants to buy.”

LEGAL RESIDENTS FLEE

Arizona straddles the principal highway for human and drug
smugglers heading into the United States from Mexico.

The state’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, signed the law
in April in a bid to curb violence and cut crime stemming from
illegal immigration.

Polls show the measure is backed by a solid majority of
Americans and by 65 percent of Arizona voters in this election
year for some state governors, all of the U.S. House of
Representatives and about a third of the 100-seat Senate.

Opponents say the law is unconstitutional and a recipe for
racial profiling. It is being challenged in seven lawsuits,
including one filed by President Barack Obama’s administration,
which wants a preliminary injunction to block the law.

A federal judge heard arguments from the lawyers for the
Justice Department and Arizona on Thursday and could rule at
any time.

The fight over the Arizona law has complicated the White
House’s effort to break the deadlock with Republicans in
Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration law, an already
difficult task before November’s elections.

While the law targets undocumented migrants, legal
residents and their U.S.-born children are getting caught up in
the rush to leave Arizona.

Mexican housewife Gabriela Jaquez, 37, said she is selling
up and leaving for New Mexico with her husband, who is a legal
resident, and two children born in Phoenix.

“Under the law, if you transport an illegal immigrant, you
are committing a crime,” she said as she sold children’s
clothes at a yard sale with three other families. “They could
arrest him for driving me to the shops.”

Lunaly Bustillos, a legal resident from Mexico, hoped to
sell some clothes, dumbbells and an ornamental statue on Sunday
before her family heads for Albuquerque, New Mexico, on
Monday.

“It makes me sad and angry too because I feel I have the
right to be here,” said Bustillos, 17, who recently graduated
from high school in Phoenix.

Stock Market Basics
(Editing by John O’Callaghan)

Migrants sell up, flee Arizona ahead of crackdown