What's Good for Jan Brewer and Russell Pearce Is Bad for Arizona
Shameless demagoguery on the issue of immigration was part of the arsenal that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and State Senator Russell Pearce deployed in their election campaigns this year. Their brand of politics aims to push all the buttons of a public legitimately frustrated with federal inaction, even if it falls woefully short of delivering actual solutions. Brewer became the face of SB 1070--the law sponsored by Pearce that makes one-third of Arizonans suspects in their own communities and empowers every law enforcement agent within the state to demand their papers--with lurid and completely fictional accounts of headless bodies in the Arizona desert. And Pearce's "friendships" with members of White supremacist and neo-Nazi groups have never fully been explained. Yet Brewer was reelected governor and Pearce became head of the Arizona State Senate. The questions are, at what cost, and who's paying the tab?
While Brewer and Pearce won, it is clear that, as a result of their antics, Arizonans have lost.
In the Hispanic community, which traces its roots to the birth of the state, the prominent belief is that this will lead to the racial profiling of citizens and legal immigrants. The law has been condemned by prominent leaders in the state, including the mayors of Phoenix and Tucson, by organizations such as the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and by more than 55 city councils and state legislatures from Amherst, Massachusetts to San Diego, California.
Various boycotts of the state by performing artists and civil rights organizations have cost the Arizona tourism industry dearly. Upwards of $15 million were lost in the first few months, with more than 40 meeting and convention groups canceling and dozens of artists refusing to play in protest of the law. Tourism officials have estimated that Arizona could lose $90 million over the next five years from conventions that won't even consider the state as a destination due to the controversy.
Travel bans to Arizona prohibit employees from Columbus, Ohio, Boulder, Colorado, and St. Paul, Minnesota to use city funds to travel to Arizona. Music performers that span all genres, including Hall and Oates, Cypress Hill, and Pitbull, have canceled concerts in the state, and the World Boxing League won't schedule Mexican fighters for bouts there.
Then there are the legal costs, since Brewer has vowed to fight for SB 1070 all the way to the Supreme Court. The result of that fight will end up costing the state millions, with the price tag already exceeding $1 million--and that's only through July. So Brewer has spent the last few months fundraising extensively for the law's defense fund, appearing coast to coast as the darling of anti-immigrant extremists on cable television and appealing to businesses for public relations support for the damage that she and Pearce have inflicted on Arizona's national image.
This might all be laughable--and Arizona has certainly turned into a late-night punch line--if not for the epic mess that Arizona is in right now. Arizona has the second-highest rate of foreclosure in the country and one of the highest rates of people filing for bankruptcy. The state is facing a record deficit of nearly $1 billion out of a total budget of just $8 billion. Thanks to budget woes, Arizona has already laid off 2,000 employees, cut day care subsidies and health care, and even closed state parks and highway rest stops. And the next step is cutting education to the bone. So what is Senate Leader Pearce doing about all this? He's hard at work on legislation to save the incandescent light bulb and unconstitutionally deny citizenship to children born in the United States.
It is no wonder that several states, even those with conservative majorities, are taking a look at what's happening in Arizona and saying "no thanks." Susana Martinez, the newly elected governor of New Mexico, a Republican and the first Latina ever to serve as a U.S. governor, has said that she does not want an Arizona-style law in her state. And just last week, Utah's most powerful leaders, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Mormon Church, sent out a statement asking for rational, effective, federal immigration reform. They figured out what we already knew--Pearce and Brewer have been wined and dined across the country, but it was Arizonans who got stuck with the tab.