Certain politicians owe soon-to-be former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce a big “Thank You.” He just single handedly proved that the politics of hate, in particular the politics of hating Latino immigrants, is a sure ticket to the dustbin of history. A year out from the 2012 elections there still may be time to re-tool their extremist anti-immigrant politics and start thinking about what Americans really want—solutions, not hate filled anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Pearce, working closely with Washington, DC-based restrictionist lobbyists, including current Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was the chief author of Arizona’s infamous SB1070, more commonly known as the “Show Me Your Papers” law. The most draconian parts of the law, including the provision which would have created a police state by forcing local law enforcement to target people who look “illegal,” were immediately thrown out by a federal judge and are now winding their way up to the Supreme Court.
A year ago Pearce was on top of the anti-immigrant restrictionist world. His political ally, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who signed SB1070 into law, was returned to the state house by a wide margin and copy cat anti-immigrant legislation was metastasizing all over the country in states like Utah, Georgia, and Alabama. Pearce’s restrictionists allies—some of whom are members of designated hate groups—ran around the country pushing more state sponsored anti-immigrant legislation in a cynical effort to take advantage of the void in policy created by Washington’s failure to hammer out a national immigration policy which serves the needs American families and businesses. The most horrific example is Alabama’s HB56, a law similar to the one Pearce wrote in Arizona, which took effect in September. It has created a repressive climate of fear which has emptied Alabama schools of Latino children and its farms of essential workers.
Luckily for America the voters of Pearce’s state senate district are smarter than Pearce and his restrictionist friends. They know when they’ve been had by a self serving politician foolish enough to do the bidding of hate mongering Washington lobbyists. Unlike Pearce, who was blinded by an extremist agenda, the voters have a clear vision of what they want their state government to do—improve Arizona’s economy, create jobs, and restore the state’s image which was left in tatters by Pearce’s law.
It’s significant that in replacing Russell Pearce with Republican Jerry Lewis the voters did not switch political parties. What they did was make it crystal clear that it was Russell Pearce and his anti-immigrant agenda that had to go.
And politicians who fail to heed this lesson —be they Republican, Democrat, or Independent—do so at their political peril. The Republican presidential primary has thus far been devoid of meaningful discussion of immigration policy. In debate after debate the candidates have done little more than offer the voters inane blabber about “boots on the ground,” electric fences, “illegal alien” invasions, and the evils of instate tuition for undocumented students. Candidates like Governor Rick Perry have been vilified for daring to suggest immigration be handled with compassion.
Yet, the polls show that American voters want something more. They long for a fair, safe, and orderly immigration policy which will get the nation out of the economic doldrums, create American jobs, and keep America competitive into the 21st century. Americans overwhelmingly long for solutions, not hate laws.