The author of the controversial immigration law passed in Arizona last year is facing a tough recall election over his staunch stance on the issue.
Russell Pearce, president of the state Senate, ignited a fiery debate across the country last year after he introduced SB 1070, the harsh anti-immigrant law that allows police to question the legal status of anyone they detain and suspect of being in the country illegally. Numerous states have since followed suit and passed their own laws, which have been criticized for encouraging racial profiling.
Citizens for a Better Arizona began circulating petitions to recall Pearce in January and claim he has been distracted from the needs of his district. He is the first Arizona state legislator ever to be recalled.
Pearce will face off against a fellow Republican, Jerry Lewis, the assistant superintendent of an Arizona charter school chain. Lewis has focused his campaign on the state’s economy and education.
Observers believe that if Pearce loses today, the successful recall effort could send a message to other politicians supporting similar controversial immigration laws in states like Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina that criminalize undocumented immigrants.
Pearce has a long record of being staunchly anti-immigrant prior to the controversial SB 1070: While he was in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2004, he wrote legislation denying state services to undocumented immigrants and required picture identification to vote.
He also strongly defends Arizona’s right to enforce immigration laws, and disagrees that SB 1070 has damaged the state’s reputation or had a negative effect on the state’s tourist economy. He believes the law has boosted the state’s reputation.
But even longtime supporters of Pearce, like Earl Rogers, 52, say that he went too far with SB 1070 and that he has “given himself and the state too much of a black eye.[Editor’s Note: You can view the election results here.]