Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Arizona’s Immigration Debate and the Myth of Invasion


Chris Griffin • Mar 29, 2011

Russell Pearce (right) posing with JT Ready, a Neo-Nazi activist

There is a sea of ignorance surrounding the immigration debate. In Arizona, the State Senate is steered by Senate President Russell Pearce, a voice of hatred. Arizona seemed on the brink of sinking further into the depths of bigotry with extreme bills on the table that attacked education, housing and healthcare for migrant families and youth.

Surprisingly, the State Senate sent a message to Pearce that they’d had enough of his immigrant bashing on March 17, even though many of these Senators supported SB1070 – racist legislation introduced by Senator Pearce and signed into law last year.  This time around the vote was 18-11 with all five major anti-immigrant bills being defeated.

There are many reasons that contributed to such a significant defeat, but as Laurie Roberts, a columnist for the Arizona Republic explained in a recent blog: “I, like most Arizonans, oppose illegal immigration.  But I don’t want to wage war on children by keeping them out of schools, or see doctors and nurses turned into immigration agents.”

While many Senators who helped to defeat these bills may provide other reasons for opposing this legislation, it seems clear that they, like Roberts, were unwilling to wage war on Arizona’s youth by keeping them out of school and turning hospitals and schools into Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  However, Pearce remains firm in his commitment to destroying the future of Arizona.

Behind Pearce’s commitment, there is an intense level of hate for undocumented families and a delusional perception of reality.  During the debate over these bills, fellow State Senator Lori Klein read aloud a racist letter from a substitute teacher to show her support for the legislation.  The letter was originally written to Pearce.  Pearce passed it on to other Senators, including Klein, to show why they should support his anti-immigration agenda.

The letter essentially argued that Hispanic students “do not want to be educated but rather be gang members.” The letter also took a page right out of Pearce’s book by characterizing immigration to Arizona as an invasion. In the letter, the teacher asked “when the citizens of a country are forced to speak the invaders [sic] language, adopt their customs, and forced to support them, are we not a conquer [sic] nation?”

The letter sparked enormous outrage.  Individuals from both sides of the issue have expressed concerns over its racist tone and many have called for Pearce to apologize for passing it around.  Pearce not only refused to apologize, but he continues to stand behind what the letter represents, as it conforms to his political agenda.

Unfortunately, Pearce has had a long history manipulating the Arizona legislature over his years in office.   He is known for circulating faulty statistics and misinformation provided by hatred anti-immigrant groups and sources, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

Pearce’s crusade to pass Arizona’s controversial SB1070 (aka ‘papers, please’ law) won out due in large part to FAIR, who crafted the language of the bill.  Although we gained a huge victory in Arizona recently, it is clear that we have a long way to go to truly break down this false notion that Arizona is being invaded by immigrants.

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