Pop + Politics: 'The Border Will Always Be Porous'

Our WNYC partner Pop + Politics is traveling the country this fall to explore the stories and characters behind the political debates of the campaign season. 

Across the southwest, one of this year's biggest election issues is illegal immigration and border security. In the spring, when Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, a bill that required local police officers to enforce federal immigration law, the state suddenly became the flash point for a national debate about how best to deal with undocumented immigrants.

The U.S. Justice Department sued the state of Arizona over the law, saying it wasn't constitutional, and in July U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked key provisions of SB 1070 from taking effect. But the reverberations keep rumbling, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco is set to hear oral arguments on November 1 in the case.

The number of undocumented immigrants arrested along the U.S.-Mexico border has steadily declined from over 600,000 people a year in 2000, to around 200,000 this year. There was a drop in 17 percent from last year, which some experts attribute to the flagging U.S. economy, and others to increased border security. In spite of the decline, the issue of illegal immigration loomed large as the Pop and Politics team arrived in Phoenix in late September. Our first stop: a jail in the desert outside of Phoenix.

Pop and Politics with Farai Chideya is a series of three radio specials looking at issues of race, rage, and reconciliation in the 2010 midterm elections. The programs, created by Pop and Politics, co-produced by WNYC, and distributed by American Public Media, will air on public radio stations around the country in late October and early November 2010.