Arizona 7th District
Southern Arizona, though technically part of Mexico for hundreds of years, was never a home to Latin American civilization as northern New Mexico was. Here the hot desert land was inhabited mainly by Native American tribes such as the Apache and Cocopah. They kept their culture and language alive in the region until they were uprooted by English-speaking whites who came in on cavalry horses and in miners’ wagons and railroad cars in the late 19th century. In 1854, the Gadsden Purchase—$10 million to Mexico for 30,000 square miles of desert—cleared the way for a southern transcontinental railroad. Today’s Hispanic Arizonans are mostly descendants of later immigrants from Mexico, some of whom came over the border in the sleepier days before World War II, when la frontera was scarcely patrolled. Many more have come since the 1980s to partake in the dazzling economic growth in the region over a quarter-century. That immigration pattern has slowed considerably in recent years, with the collapse of the real estate market in Arizona and stronger law enforcement against illegal aliens.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 7th Congressional District of Arizona was newly created in 2002 and is the state’s second Hispanic-majority district, with a population in 2000 that was 51% Hispanic. It is geographically a giant of a district—larger than Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Connecticut, and New Jersey put together—and shares 300 miles of border with Mexico. The district is a collection of four distant communities connected by many square miles of uninhabited Sonoran desert. One is the suburb of Tolleson just west of downtown Phoenix. The second is the heavily Latino west and south sides of Tucson. The largest employer in southern Arizona is the University of Arizona in Tucson. The third community is Yuma, located at a Colorado River crossing in an irrigated agricultural valley, often the hottest place in the country. The lower Colorado produces much of the nation’s lettuce and in the winter is one of the nation’s biggest RV centers. The fourth is the Mexican border town of Nogales, which is 94% Hispanic and located near many maquiladora plants, long an entry point for the drug trade and the scene of many illegal border crossings in recent years. The twin smuggling tides—drugs and people—have inflicted damage on the fragile desert ecosystem. In an interesting example of international cooperation, the sister cities of Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, have signed an agreement to respond jointly to fire and hazardous-materials emergencies.
Out in the desert there is the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, and the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, the largest aerial gunnery range after Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Range. It is twice the size of Delaware. However, 95% of it is not used for target practice in order to protect the habitat of the endangered Sonoran pronghorn antelope. Near Nogales, other unique forms of wildlife are found in the Tumacacori Highlands, including endangered species such as the jaguar, peregrine falcon, Chiricahua leopard frog, and Mexican spotted owl. With its brutal desert heat, the Baboquivari trail that runs north to the Tohono O’odham nation has been the deadliest immigrant crossing in the nation. Trash left behind by illegal crossers has caused growing environmental problems. The 7th District, home to seven Indian tribes, is one of two overwhelmingly Democratic districts in Arizona.