By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY
RIO RICO, Ariz. — About 70 parents usually attend monthly parent-teacher meetings here at the Pena Blanca Elementary School. In April, at the last meeting of this school year, only 20 showed up.
“There is a little fear,” says Sandra Figueroa, principal of this Santa Cruz County school 12 miles from the Mexican border.
Fear, mistrust, anger. The immigration law approved by the Arizona Legislature last month requires police to determine a person’s immigration status if they’re stopped, detained or arrested and there is “reasonable suspicion” they’re here illegally. It has sparked legal challenges and strong emotions on both sides of the immigration debate.
Whatever its future, the law could not have come at a worse time for the 2010 Census.
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The once-a-decade government count of every person in the USA began in March with a giant mail-out. Seventy-two percent of U.S. households responded by mail — 67% in Arizona and 64% in Santa Cruz County. On May 1 — eight days after the immigration law was signed into law — 635,000 Census workers nationwide started going door-to-door to every home that did not send back the forms. They will return up to six times until they get answers to the 10 questions on the form.
In Arizona, many civic groups fear the new law will discourage cooperation.