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Caroline Fan on July 9, 2009 - 11:08am
Budget issues consumed many state legislatures this session, and Arizona was no different. Prior to the budget bill hearings a grand total of four bills were passed, and the floodgates broke after state legislators hammered out a budget agreement. State Senator Russell Pearce, the main proponent of anti-immigrant bills in the state (and sponsor of 17 of 27 punitive bills), saw it as a prime opportunity to push his unrealistic bills forward. Russell, a chapter leader of an anti-immigrant network, State Legislators for Legal Immigration, particularly wanted to pass HB 2280 which sought to limit the discretion of local law enforcement officials to police their own counties, and was seen by most as unconstitutional.
Groups such as Border Action Network took the lead on coordinating 40,000 emails to legislators to oppose State Senator Russell Pearce’s anti-immigrant bills from becoming law. Jennifer Allen, executive director of Border Action Network declared:
There was unprecedented response from Arizona residents. It is clear that Arizonans are tired of the repressive mentality that Russell Pearce has sought to promote. We want to see our legislature transform our state into one with a strong economy, that is welcoming, innovative and forward thinking. Pearce is completely out of touch with Arizona's needs, its residents and its future.
In the 11th hour, in what was the last step before HB 2280 would have been transmitted to the Governor for her approval, Republicans and Democrats alike in the House of Representatives voted the bill down, after it had previously been approved in the State Senate.
His failure to pass any of his bills puts him in the same league as other members of SLLI that have been defanged by members of their own party, who see the actions of these “lone wolves” as increasingly antiquated, erratic, and contrary to public safety. A recent article on the legislative victory stated:
“Many police bosses in Arizona have resisted past efforts to have local officers confront border woes, saying it would detract from investigations of crime in their communities and jeopardize the trust they have built in immigrant communities.”
Pearce promises that the bill will come back to life next session, but this is the third time since 2006 that such legislation has been brought up and failed to become law. Two previous times, then-Governor Napolitano vetoed the bill.
Defeating anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona is no mean feat, as a border state where tensions have historically run high it has become ground zero in the national debate over immigration. Pearce’s failure marks a turning point in the debate, and perhaps a return to sanity.
Border Action Network
Progressive States Network - State Roundups and Anti-Immigrant State Legislators Largely Marginalized