Russell Pearce is best known as the controversial co-author and lead sponsor of Arizona’s SB 1070.
SB 1070 is considered one of the harshest anti-immigrant laws in the nation. Written in 2010, Pearce had the support of the organized nativist movement in drafting the bill, in particular Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and its legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute. Pearce also encouraged the passing of SB1070 copycats through his position as a leading member of the State Legislators for Legal Immigration, a national network of state legislators that work closely with FAIR to push racist bills and measures across the U.S.
SB 1070 was designed to make the lives of immigrants so intolerable they would flee the country. Parts of the bill, particularly its “papers please”/racial profiling provision, were ultimately struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Pearce’s obsession with the political agenda of the anti-immigrant movement and his promotion of their hardline policies eventually led to a recall election. In 2011, with business owners and advocates both recognizing him as out-of-touch with their needs, Pearce was ejected from office.
He did not simply disappear; he was later appointed as the First Vice Chair of the Arizona Republican party.
Pearce once sent his supporters an article from the website of the neo-Nazi group National Alliance, and he maintained a close friendship with JT Ready long after Ready was exposed as a prominent member of the National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi group in the U.S. While under investigation for weapons trafficking in 2011, Ready murdered his girlfriend and her family – including her infant daughter.
Recently, Pearce commented on his radio show that he would fix government assistance programs by forcibly sterilizing poor woman:
“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get [female recipients] Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”
In the wake of those comments, Pearce resigned from his position with the Arizona Republican Party.