Why Arizona Is 'Crazy Town' on Immigration

Senate President Russell Pearce now has big clout
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2011 1:02 PM CST
Why Arizona Is 'Crazy Town' on Immigration
Protesters gather around Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011 outside the Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Jack Kurtz)

Last year, Arizona made waves with its law requiring immigrants to carry documentation with them everywhere; now, a raft of new immigration measures in the state’s legislature may be even more controversial. What is it about Arizona that drives such “extreme legislation”? asks Eliza Gray in the New Republic. One big part of the answer: state Senate President Russell Pearce, who’s had a hand in all the measures in question.

Pearce was once “a back bencher with no discernible skills,” an insider tells Gray, but he rode a wave of anti-immigration sentiment to the top. Pledging to end the “illegal invasion,” he was elected state senator in 2008 and became president of the GOP’s Senate caucus last November. He now wields vast power to push through bills. While the measures currently circulating may be tough to pass, “when the Senate president is a prime sponsor,” says the minority leader, “anything can happen.” (More Arizona stories.)

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