Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a nationally syndicated columnist, an NPR commentator and a regular contributor to CNN.com.
It was an ethnic twist on an American classic, the kind of thing that some people consider appealing and others frightening. Pinto beans, diced tomatoes, salsa and jalapenos top a hot dog that's grilled to perfection.
It's 10 o'clock on a Saturday night at ground zero in the immigration debate.
The hot dog vendor, a woman from the Mexican state of Sinaloa, would normally be doing a brisk business. Her cart is across the street from a popular Latino dance club that used to be frequented by Mexican-Americans but is now normally crammed with Mexican immigrants.
"The city feels abandoned," the woman tells me in Spanish. "Everyone has left."
It sure looks that way during a drive though the city's predominantly Latino west side, with its abandoned buildings, deserted homes and empty parks.
Since April, when Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 to punish illegal immigrants for the sins of the employers who hire them, estimates are that tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have left Arizona for a warmer climate in Utah, Colorado, Texas or New Mexico.
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