December 2, 2011
Lessons Learned from the Recall of Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce
In the event you might have been living on another planet over the last year or so and the name Russell Pearce fails to resonate, suffice it to say Arizona’s State Senator Russell Pearce is the chief architect of SB1070, legislation that requires law enforcement to determine the immigration status of anyone pulled over, detained or arrested if there is “reasonable suspicion” that person is the country illegally. Many aspects of the law are on hold as the Obama administration fights it in court. As the election results now stand, Republican Jerry Lewis will represent District 18. As for Pearce, he will shoulder the dubious distinction of being the first sitting Senate president and the first Arizona legislator to lose a recall election.
“Anti-immigrant extremism is a political loser,” according to Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “It mobilizes Latino voters who want acceptance and respect, and it angers sensible Republicans, independents and Democrats who want their leaders to focus on bread-and-butter issues, not hot-button cultural issues.” And if Arizona is known for anything (with the possible exception of being the state that doggedly fought the Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. holiday) it is known for its stringent approach to immigration. It has been Arizona’s approach to immigration that gave rise to The Real Arizona Coalition. A group of organizations and individuals determined to return Arizona “to the state they all love.” The Coalition’s approach was to facilitate a series of what came to be called, Arizona Immigration Solutions Conference.
"The goal of the conferences is to encourage policymakers to work from a solid base of facts and begin a serious community-wide discussion about the best ways to address this important issue,” said Todd Landfried, spokesman for Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform. “These conferences are not about whether employer sanctions or SB1070 are good or bad laws, it’s about whether they’re working. Making sure that our tax dollars are spent wisely and effectively is a fair expectation for citizens to demand of their government.” Well attended conferences were held in Phoenix, Prescott, Tucson, Mesa, and Yuma. Panel participants ran the gamut from farmers who have felt the negative economic impact of SB1070 to a VP of the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce. For more information on these conferences visit the Coalition’s website at
Blacks are absent
The fact that few African Americans attended these conferences is indicative of the glacial pace taken by many Blacks to identify with the immigration movement. It is not unheard of to hear Blacks moaning, “They are taking our jobs!” “They,” of course are those coming across the southern border from Mexico.
It was not all that long ago Blacks were the “immigrants” accused of taking jobs from whites. Migratory routes that led to Detroit, Chicago, and New York found Blacks competing for jobs traditionally enjoyed by whites. A willingness to work for less pay made Black labor more appealing to employers; all to the chagrin of white workers who found ways to let newly arriving Blacks know they were not welcome; a far cry from the welcoming mat that was rolled out during the Maafa (enslavement).
Mexico to the rescue
Among the many provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was the law that required Blacks, who had escaped from their place of enslavement and found themselves in free states, to be returned to their captives; making it virtually impossible for any enslaved Black man or woman to feel safe knowing that at any moment a bounty hunter could capture and re-enslave them. A little know fact is that the Mexican government opened its borders to all escaped Blacks who were fortunate enough to find their way to Mexico.
It has been said freedom is a constant struggle. Once attained, one can ill-afford to sit back and enjoy its fruits without maintaining constant vigilance. The rights achieved by Blacks during Reconstruction were quickly diminished with the arrival of the Rutherford B. Hayes Compromise of 1877, federal troops were pulled out of the South and the protection Blacks had become accustomed to was no more. The Plessy v Ferguson Supreme Court decision of 1896 made “separate but equal” law and further contributed to the eviscerating of civil and human rights; de facto rights that would not be fully attained again until the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.
The recalling of Senator Russell Pearce provides an opportunity for Blacks, Chicanos, and others who profess to love justice to sit down together and further assess what the individual and collective implications are. Such a discussion should include a review of what our common interests are and what it will take to realize them. It was the great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass who admonished, “Talking doesn’t solve all problems, but no problems can be solved unless there is first some talking.”
Posted by BAJI Communications at 12:46 PM