By: Mo Goldman, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee and Jerry Burns, Arizona Chapter Chair

April 24, 2010:

Governor Jan Brewer signed the controversial SB 1070 bill into law thus securing her re-election.  Russell Pearce was the lead sponsor of the bill and a leader in the Arizona State Senate.  Andrew Thomas had just resigned as the Maricopa County Attorney to run for Arizona Attorney General.  While serving as County Attorney, Thomas focused much of his efforts prosecuting and persecuting undocumented immigrants.  Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was spending considerable time self-promoting on Fox News as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.”  Sheriff Joe, who is a first generation American after his parents emigrated from Italy, was expending substantial county resources on “crime” sweeps rounding up non-criminal undocumented immigrants.

April 24, 2012:

It has been two years since that infamous date in Arizona history.  We have been asked the question:  What is the feeling in Arizona leading up to SB 1070’s date with the US Supreme Court?  Fever pitch?  Nope.  Tense anticipation?  Maybe.  Perhaps the most intriguing aspect about the buildup is that immigration no longer monopolizes the headlines in Arizona.  Why?  Perhaps it’s because Arizonans have realized that there are much more important things to worry about.  Perhaps it’s because the business community asked our legislature to stop with the harmful and unnecessary immigration legislation.  The hateful rhetoric seems to have toned down a bit and people seem to be growing comfortable with the crazy notion that immigration is not the only game in town, rather that the Latino immigrants may not be the cause of everything that ails society.

Another possibility for the lull in the action may be that for the loudest voices of insanity, Russell Pearce, Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio, the fall has been long and hard.  Especially hard for Pearce and Thomas (we are not gloating).  The jury is still out on Arpaio, which constantly seems to be the case.  The Department of Homeland Security yanked 287(g) authority from Maricopa County Jails due to findings by Department of Justice’s findings of discriminatory policing practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.  While he’s laughing off serious accusations of racial profiling, Sheriff Joe is also facing allegations of abuse of power, neglect of responsibilities, misappropriating taxpayer dollars, and facing a mounting number of lawsuits while costing the Arizona taxpayer millions of dollars each and every year.

Former State Senator Russell Pearce was recalled by the voters in his own district.  A first for a sitting legislator in Arizona!  The recall initiative was spurred on by the local grassroots organization “Citizens for a Better Arizona” and the drive to recall Pearce became a referendum on his ineffectiveness to lead or produce results on anything other than divisive legislation.  Pearce was defeated by Sen. Jerry Lewis, who by all accounts is a rational, decent human being who ran on a simple message: how can we get the economy of our great state back on track with job creation, providing quality education to all children in Arizona and tossing aside the myopic views espoused by Pearce on immigration.  What is Pearce up to these days?  He is Chairman of Ban Amnesty Now.

This month, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas was disbarred for a buffet of misdeeds, mostly involving dishonesty, corruption, and the misuse of the powers of his office to destroy the careers and lives of anyone who dared to question him, Pearce, or Arpaio.

Governor Brewer is still in the same position wagging her disrespectful finger and claiming that headless bodies are littering our deserts.  She is not the best public relations benefit to our state, but whether she likes it or not, she sure keeps us amused.  Gov. Brewer continues with the tired rhetoric about sealing the border, but hardly anyone takes her seriously. We suspect her 15 minutes are just about up.

Last but certainly not least controversial: the ringleader of the SB 1070 sideshow, Sheriff Joe (whose favorite catch-phrase should be “you have not been served,” a reference to the hundreds of sexual abuse cases that his office failed to investigate), has been remarkably silent in recent months.  This coming from a man whose bombastic tough talk and full-on assault on the average Maria and Jose dominated the evening news in 2010.  Not a peep from him on SB 1070 since Pearce was recalled.  Not a peep after Mr. Thomas’ bar card was revoked.  Not much tough talk on possible litigation stemming from an extensive DOJ investigation into racial profiling concerns under his leadership.

While we wait for SCOTUS to hear the constitutional arguments on SB 1070 in Arizona v. U.S., the fall of Pearce, Thomas and, to some extent, Joe, has been cathartic to the many individuals and families whose lives have been destroyed by the prospect of SB 1070 and other laws lashing out at undocumented immigrants.  In the words of Jon Stewart, Arizona became known as the “meth lab of democracy” and now the world will watch as the high court will put the most virulent, anti-immigrant experimentation law to the test.  Their decision will not only impact Arizona but will likely signal a significant precedent on how other states will approach anti-immigrant litigation.  Meanwhile, thanks to the fall of some of the loudest and most hateful voices in Arizona, things are much quieter on the crazy front.  Only when the Court strikes down SB 1070 will sanity be restored and the real healing can begin.