PHOENIX — Arthur H. Rotstein, a retired Associated Press correspondent who covered southern Arizona for nearly 30 years and documented the wave of illegal immigration that swept the state in the mid-1990s, has died at age 74.
His daughter, Rebekah Rotstein, said he died Monday morning from COVID-19 after being hospitalized in Tucson for 10 days.
Rotstein worked for the AP for 35 years — about six years in his native Chicago and another 29 years as the news agency’s Tucson correspondent — until his retirement in 2010.
In Tucson, Rotstein covered a wide variety of stories: wildfires, the development of Biosphere 2, sports at the University of Arizona, a 2001 riot after Arizona lost the NCAA basketball championship, the growing pains of a booming Southwest city, and a 2002 shooting at the university’s nursing school in which three professors were killed by a failing student.
He covered the sanctuary movement, an effort by clergy and lay members to help people fleeing political persecution from El Salvador and Guatemala cross the border into the United States. He reported on a trial in the ’80s in which eight sanctuary movement members were convicted of conspiracy or other charges.
Above all, Rotstein witnessed the wave of illegal immigration that flooded Arizona in the mid-1990s. He wrote about immigrants who died while crossing the Arizona desert, the environmental damage caused by large numbers of people crossing through the desert, and drug and immigrant smuggling.
“He brought curiosity and respect for people to the job, and he was dedicated to helping a wide audience understand his adopted hometown,” said George Garties, who served as AP’s news editor in Arizona from 1991-1995 and now manages AP’s business relationship with several media ownership groups.
Mort Rosenblum, a journalist who worked at AP for 39 years and grew up in Tucson, said Rotstein brought compassion and well-rounded professionalism to his reporting about those who sneaked across the border in hopes of improving life for their families. “If you want to find a model of a quintessential AP reporter or human, it was Art,” Rosenblum said.
Giovanna Dell’Orto, a journalism professor at the University of Minnesota who previously worked as an AP reporter, said Rotstein was a powerful mentor earlier in her career.
“He was the archetypal correspondent who knew a community inside and out, knew the stories, knew the sources,” Dell’Orto said. “And he was always humble to realize that he could learn more and be on the lookout for more.”
Rotstein is survived by his wife, Debby Rotstein, and his daughter, Rebekah Rotstein.