Russell Pearce

Last week, I was the lone Republican to testify in a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC. I was the lone voice in defense of Arizona’s SB-1070, a law I was proud to have written and worked for several years to pass. I didn’t mind facing off against senior Democrat U.S.Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) and the other witnesses testifying against my bill. In politics, when you’re in the right, you’re never really alone.

Several people have asked me if I was surprised or disappointed that Arizona’s Senator Kyl decided not to attend his own subcommittee? After all, his presence would have doubled the number of voices speaking in support of SB-1070, passed by a majority of Arizona legislators, supported by a majority of Arizona voters, and signed into law by Arizona’s governor?

In truth, no. Senator Kyl understood this hearing was little more than political theater, a protest show staged by Democrats trying to inflame passions with angry rhetoric and score points in an election year more important than any in recent memory. Likewise, Governor Brewer was justified in not testifying. She signed SB1070 into law, but she didn’t write the bill with me, Kris Kobach, or the others who labored for years to finally pass this law. And had she been there, it truly would have been theater because she wears a much bigger political target on her chest than I do.

So why did I agree to testify? Why did I walk into the viper’s nest, knowing I would be surrounded on all sides by career politicians and their cameras? I traveled to Washington and debated Sens. Schumer and Durbin, and the other witnesses, because of the simple reason that I believe our side should never be afraid to stand up and speak what we believe.

In his opening remarks, Sen. Schumer impressed me by calling for solutions to three things that I, and most conservatives, have long called for: (1) ending illegal immigration; (2) fixing America’s broken immigration system; and (3) solving the problem of 23 million illegals currently living in the U.S.

Of course, Mr. Schumer and I differ on solutions to those problems. His calls for amnesty masked under the political rhetoric of “comprehensive immigration reform” ought to be a non-starter. American citizenship should not be rewarded to those who break the law. Similarly, Mr. Schumer’s argument that just as only a federal agency such as the IRS can interpret and enforce the tax code, as opposed to 50 separate state agencies, is irrelevant.

First off, only a career Washington liberal would cite the IRS as an example of something which works and proof that states couldn’t do it better. But more to the point, SB-1070 doesn’t set immigration policy any more than it sets tax policy.

This fear campaign started by the White House, the media and the pro-amnesty groups that Arizona and other states would start trying to dictate new immigration laws is absurd and distracts from what SB-1070 actually does. In short, SB1070 empowers local and state law enforcement to protect their citizens from illegal aliens. And it does so not only in compliance with federal laws, but often written verbatim in concert with federal law.

Believe me, if we were changing immigration policy, America’s borders would be secure, voter ID would be mandatory to both register to vote and cast a ballot, and all employers nationwide would be required to use eVerify to guarantee they were hiring U.S. citizens or legal aliens. But SB1070 doesn’t do any of that, and no amount of posturing, or political theater, will change that fact.

In short, I left a few things for Congress to work on. To all members of Congress, including Senator Schumer, if you decide to get serious on stopping illegal immigration, you won’t be alone like I was in your subcommittee. But if you keep ignoring it, we’ll keep working in the states. I guarantee it.


Russell Pearce

Russell Pearce served as President of the Arizona State Senate where he authored SB 1070. He is currently president of Ban Amnesty Now.