It was not too long ago when Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce was considered an embarrassing crank by the state’s Republican establishment, and with good reason:
Russell Pearce, had long been considered a politically incorrect embarrassment by more moderate members of his party — often to the delight of his supporters. There was the time in 2007 when he appeared in a widely circulated photograph with a man who was a featured speaker at a neo-Nazi conference. (Mr. Pearce said later he did not know of the man’s affiliation with the group.)
In 2006, he came under fire for speaking admirably of a 1950s federal deportation program called Operation Wetback, and for sending an e-mail message to supporters that included an attachment — inadvertently, he said — from a white supremacist group.
Not surprisingly, Pearce holds ultra-militant anti-immigration views and has used his position as chair of the Senate’s Appropriation Committee to turn them into law:
Passage of the law, which would, among other things, allow the authorities to demand proof of legal entry into the United States from anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, testified to the relative lack of political power of Arizona Latinos, and to the hardened views toward illegal immigration among Republican politicians both here and nationally.
The bill makes it a state crime for immigrants not to carry authorization papers, requires the police “when practicable” to check the immigration status of people they reasonably suspect are in the country illegally and allows people to sue cities and counties if the law is not being enforced.
Just as we predicted in our recent Right Wing Watch In Focus, “(P)reviewing the Right-Wing Playbook on Immigration Reform,” supporters of this draconian legislation engaged in a variety of standard right-wing strategies for justifying the need for the bill, from portraying immigrants as terrorists to accusing them of “invading” America:
But supporters of the bill pointed out the problems caused by illegal immigration. Republican Senator John Huppenthal, a sponsor of the bill, says he’s seen evidence of neighborhoods that have been “nuclear-bombed by the effects of illegal immigration.” Republican Senator Al Melvin pointed to the murder of an Arizona rancher last month, possibly at the hands of an illegal immigrant, and the federal government’s failure to act on illegal immigration as the reasons for his vote; and another senator cited 40 murders committed by illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration was called an “invasion” several times on the Senate floor.