The residents of Arizona have rebuked the hard-line politics of the state Senate President Russell Pearce who was the author of the state’s tough anti-illegal immigration law that has given rise to copycat laws in several other states. The Senator has been forced out of office in a recall election. His defeat puts a different face on Arizona and signals that voters are ready to take state politics in a new direction. Bruce Merrill, a political scientist and professor emeritus at Arizona State University said, “Most Arizonians are pretty moderate, and I think they just got tired of all of the venom and all of the bitterness. It really became more-to some degree-that Russell Pearce was somewhat of an embarrassment.” Hispanics who opposed Pearce’s hard stance on immigration policies, along with moderates who came out to vote in high numbers were both crucial to ousting one of the most powerful politicians in the state. After eleven years, the senator lost his seat to Jerry Lewis a fellow Republican. “If being recalled is the prize for keeping one’s promises, then so be it,” Pearce told a crowd. Pearce had for years pushed laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration in the state, but he rose to national prominence after sponsoring Senate Bill 1070, the controversial law that makes it a state crime to be in Arizona illegally. The measure, with some of its key provisions being on hold pending a federal legal challenge, allows state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws. Pearce’s maniacal support for SB 1070 motivated Citizens for a Better Arizona (CBA) to collect thousands of signatures needed to force the recall election. During the process, it was learned that Pearce was instrumental in pushing through significant funding cuts to education and health-care services. After riding a wave of popularity for a while it all finally seemed to be coming to an end this year when he faced resistance within his own party on furthering his agenda. His efforts to push bills on gun rights and immigration, including one to deny “birthright citizenship” to residents born in Arizona whose parents were not U.S. citizens, became a hotbed for debate and eventually fizzled out. The senator was also involved in a financial scandal for failing to disclose that he had accepted thousands of dollars in free trips from the Fiesta Bowl, one of college football’s four major game championships. Newly elected Senator Lewis frowns on immigration policies that focus exclusively on enforcement and favors cooperation with the federal government. Thus, the recall of Pearce brings positive change, particularly when it comes to immigration. “It’s very significant that we got rid of one of the strong voices that is anti-immigrant and very negative for the state,” said a CBA representative. This news is very positive indeed. It may very well be the rise of a new dawn for the state of Arizona. We look forward to some degree of normalcy returning to the residents of the state, especially those who have thus far been forced to live in fear of detention and deportation, and who have been subjected to repeated discrimination.
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