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Emails from ALEC Member Russell Pearce Show Anti-Immigrant Law May Have Been Racially Motivated
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona has asked the man behind the "show me your papers" anti-immigrant law in that state to show them his emails. An open records request to former Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce netted thousands of email records sent from Pearce's account that suggest Arizona's SB 1070, which was taken up as an American Legislative Exchange Council "model bill" but recently struck down in large part by the U.S. Supreme Court, was motivated by racism and xenophobia.
"We are much like the Titanic as we inbreed millions of Mexico's poor, the world's poor and we watch our country sink," reads one email obtained through the open records request. "They create enclaves of separate groups that shall balkanize our nation into fractured nightmares of social unrest and poverty," reads another of the emails, which appear to have been sent to and from Pearce himself.
As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of SB 1070 on grounds it was preempted by federal law, but withheld judgment on the "papers please" provision that requires law enforcement to verify the immigration status of any person stopped, detained or arrested if they claim a "reasonable suspicion" the person is in the country illegally. But the Court left the door open for additional challenges to the provision on other grounds.
The ACLU filed the case Friendly House v. Whiting in federal court challenging the provision on grounds that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection protections by encouraging racial profiling, as well as violating the Fourth Amendment by unconstitutionally extending the length of time a person can be detained.
The ACLU included Pearce's emails as evidence in the case to prove SB 1070 was racially motivated.
"Can we maintain our social fabric as a nation with Spanish fighting English for dominance?" reads one of the emails sent from Pearce's account. "It's like importing leper colonies and hope we don't catch leprosy. It's like importing thousands of Islamic jihadists and hope they adapt to the American Dream."
The case is currently before Judge Susan R. Bolton, who initially enjoined SB 1070 on federal preemption grounds in U.S. v. Arizona, the same case that was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Pearce Took SB 1070 to ALEC for Approval before Introducing It
Pearce was recalled in November of 2011 due in part to his harsh stance on immigration. While in the Arizona Senate, Pearce was a member of ALEC's now-disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force whose corporate and legislative members approved SB 1070 as well as voter ID, "stand your ground," and prison privatization laws.
In December 2009, a few months before Pearce introduced the bill in the Arizona Senate, the ALEC task force convened and Pearce sat down behind closed doors with lobbyists for the for-profit prison and bail industries to approve the "No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act" as a model bill. Private sector members of the task force included the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which before the meeting had identified immigrant detention as a profit center important for its future growth, since around half of all immigrant detention facilities are operated by private prison operators. CCA later claimed that it never voted on ALEC bills, despite having previously co-chaired that task force as it approved numerous bills to privatize state prisons and increase the length of sentences for various crimes. Also an ALEC member is the private bail industry, which also has a financial interest in bonds posted by immigrants.
In the wake of controversy surrounding ALEC's legislative agenda, 30 companies and 56 legislators have dropped their ALEC membership. In recent days, General Motors and Walgreens became the 29th and 30th corporations to cut ties with the controversial organization. ALEC is currently having its 39th annual meeting in Salt Lake City. Find out more at PRWatch.org and ALECexposed.org.
(this article has been updated)