Exclusive Interview: Architect of Ariz. Immigration Law Won’t Quit

Russell Pearce Recalled

By Mark Anderson -

When Attorney General Eric Holder testified on Nov. 8 before the Senate Judiciary Committee on a dangerous federal gunrunning scheme called Operation Fast and Furious, he vowed to continue filing federal lawsuits against any state that passed its own immigration laws.

Even before sensitive discussion of Fast and Furious and his role in it began that day, Holder announced that he wanted to prevent “a patchwork of immigration laws that can lead to potential discrimination practices”—a decidedly touchy comment when several states, including Arizona, passed their own immigration laws while seeing the federal government conduct operations that put high-powered firearms in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, resulting in the death of at least one border patrol agent in Arizona late last year.

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Something else happened on Nov. 8. Thousands of miles away from Washington, D.C., a tough-minded former Arizona police officer from Mesa, state Sen. Russell Pearce—nationally known for Senate Bill 1070, his pace-setting 2010 legislation that enabled Arizona law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of suspected illegal aliens—was voted out of office in Arizona’s first-ever recall election. Pearce lost to the obscure Jerry Lewis, who won by a margin of 53 to 45 percent.

Citizens for a Better Arizona (CBA) claimed that S.B. 1070 represents “an extreme, ultraconservative agenda.”

Pearce was recalled by a grouping of pro-illegal alien organizations, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), but mainly by CBA, whose president, Randy Parraz, said that the group registered more than 1,150 new voters in the district and organized the recall drive in one of Arizona’s most conservative districts. The SEUI attributed Pearce’s loss to “the strength of the Hispanic vote,” and the pro-amnesty-for-illegal-aliens lobbying organization America’s Voice also played a roll in the recall. All these groups saw the recall as a referendum on S.B. 1070, which Pearce dismissed as nonsense.

Pearce, who conducted email instead of phone correspondence when this AFP reporter contacted him, responded, “My critics claim that my defeat shows the voters oppose immigration control. The pro-amnesty lobbying organization America’s Voice wrote, ‘the people of Mesa have sent a message to Arizona and the nation. Anti-immigrant extremism doesn’t work.’”

Pearce, who might run for elected office again in 2012, said that he wants to put “America first with secure borders [and] safer neighborhoods, and protect American jobs [and] save billions of dollars educating, medicating and incarcerating illegal aliens. Extremism is not extreme at all when it is defending this constitutional republic.”

Pearce quoted the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association as saying, “Since S.B. 1070, Phoenix has experienced a 30-year low crime rate. When hard-working rank-and-file Phoenix police officers were given access to the tool of S.B. 1070, the deterrence factor this legislation brought about was clearly instrumental in our unprecedented drop in crime.”

Pearce said he’s also glad that Alabama, South Carolina, Utah and Georgia “all passed bills modeled after S.B. 1070.”

Holder is not the only problem. Pearce recalled that when he introduced S.B. 1070, “[U.S. Sen.] John McCain and [U.S. Rep.] Jeff Flake both opposed Prop. 200, and both have been prime sponsors of amnesty.”

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