PHOENIX -- Opponents of Arizona's hardline immigration enforcement law contend that emails sent, received and forwarded by a former legislator who championed the law support allegations it was racially motivated.
Dozens of emails are cited in a new legal effort by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups to block police from enforcing the Arizona law's so-called "show me your papers" provision recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The groups said the emails and other material reveal that ex-Sen. Russell Pearce and other supporters of the law known as SB1070 embraced discriminatory views and bent the truth about immigration-related matters, setting the stage for enactment of a law that the groups contend will lead to racial profiling if enforced.
Russell is the architect of Arizona's immigration law.
The use of the emails in the court filing later Tuesday was reported Friday by The Arizona Republic.
Pearce on Friday denied discriminatory intent in championing the law, telling The Associated Press that the civil rights groups falsely portray him as a racist and that the law includes protections against racial profiling.
"Nobody wants to talk about that," he said. "I've been attacked for years. I don't expect it to stop."
The motion cited dozens of emails that were sent, received or forwarded by Pearce. Many of the emails asserted costs and troubles associated with unauthorized immigration, including crime and increased demand for public services such as education and health care.
Pearce has made countless public statements to that effect in recent years, while repeatedly saying he just wants federal and state officials to enforce laws against unauthorized immigration.
In one article forwarded by Pearce from one of his email accounts to another in 2006, a commentator spoke of the United States "facing an overwhelming illegal alien invasion" in which Hispanic undocumented immigrants were "arrogantly corrupting our unifying national language while actively disrespecting our culture, society and country."
A 2007 email sent from Pearce's legislative email account to a personal Pearce account said unauthorized immigration of Spanish-speakers puts the country's status as an English-speaking country at risk.
"It's like importing leper colonies and hope we don't catch leprosy," the email stated. "It's like importing thousands of Islamic jihadists and hope they adapt to the American dream."
The five-page email contained multiple references to conditions in Arizona, but Pearce said the leprosy reference was from material written by a man in Colorado.
"I forward a lot of his stuff. Much of it is right on," Pearce said.
The Arizona law's so-called "papers" provision requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons if there is reasonable suspicion the people are in the country without documentation.
The high court on June 25 rejected the Obama administration's argument that the provision was unconstitutional because federal law trumps state law. But the civil rights group now argues that it should be blocked because Latinos in Arizona would face systematic racial profiling and unreasonably long detentions.
The civil rights groups' motion argues that discriminatory intent by legislative supporters of the law would help prove that it violates the Constitution's right to equal protection under the law.
Jack Chin, a University of California-Davis law school professor, said courts typically are more interested in details of laws or their enforcement, and that legislative emails and questionable claims of fact have limited value as evidence.
"If we're talking about the bad views of one legislator, even an important legislator, that's going to be a hard sell because the majority of legislators who voted for the thing might not have been racially motivated," Chin said.
A spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer said the groups' arguments are a smoke screen that won't succeed in court.
"By focusing upon an individual legislator's emails, they intend to divert focus from SB1070's simple, common-sense language - language that the overwhelming majority of Arizonans and Americans support, and language that the Supreme Court unanimously upheld," said Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson.
Pearce was Arizona Senate president when he was ousted from the Legislature after losing a November 2011 recall election. He is running for re-election to the state Senate.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com