Russell Pearce: ‘Absolutely’ believes Romney called Ariz. immigration law a “model”
The author of Arizona’s SB 1070 defended his law before Congress.
The co-author of Arizona’s controversial immigration law said Tuesday that he believes Mitt Romney backed the measure as a model for the nation.
Asked by reporters following a Senate hearing on the SB 1070 law if he believes the likely GOP presidential nominee endorsed it as a model, former state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) replied: “Absolutely.”
“I’m not going to get into specifics because I can tell you the folks [who are] his advisers on this, I’ve worked with for years,” he added. “I have great confidence and trust in them. I know Romney is a compassionate guy, most of us I’d like to think are. But I also think he understands the crisis and the damage to this republic and the need to enforce our laws and secure our borders, and I admire that.”
Whether Romney, in fact, called the legislation a model has been the topic of contentious debate over the past few weeks. It was widely reported that Romney referred to it that way at a February 22 debate in Mesa, Ariz. But as Romney has made an attempt to soften his rhetoric on immigration as he prepares to face President Obama in the general election, his campaign has made an effort to clarify he didn’t call SB 1070 a model.
Instead, the Romney campaign has pointed out that the candidate was referring to the state’s mandatory E-Verify law, which requires employers to check the immigration status of job applicants through a government electronic database.
“You know, I think you see a model in Arizona. They passed a law here that says that people who come here and try and find work, that the employer is required to look them up on E-Verify. This E-Verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who’s here legally and who’s not here legally,” Romney said during the debate. “And as a result of E-Verify being put in place, the number of people in Arizona that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 percent, where the national average has only gone down 7 percent.”
While Arizona’s E-Verify law is little-known to those outside the state, the SB 1070 immigration crackdown law became a national story when it was brought up in 2010. The law, which allows state and local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of individuals during any lawful stop, is being challenged by the federal government. It is strongly opposed by Latinos nationwide and triggered protests nationwide.
Pearce was recalled from office in November 2011, largely over his efforts to usher the law to passage.
Oral arguments over the constitutionality of four central provisions of the law before the Supreme Court begin Wednesday.
Romney has chastised the Obama administration for challenging the law in court, which has led to key elements of the law being blocked. More importantly, the former Massachusetts governor in January adopted the philosophical underpinning of the Arizona law, “self-deportation” or attrition by enforcement, as is his immigration strategy.
During testimony before the Senate subcommittee, Pearce said “self-deportation” is “far the majority opinion of my party.”
Pearce decried opponents of the bill in Arizona who say it makes them embarrassed for their state, such as former Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), who testified alongside him.
“DeConcini is a friend, but I’m going to be very candid here: maybe he shares the same feeling that Michelle Obama feels when she felt like the only time she was ever proud of America is when they elected her husband,” he said.
“I’m proud of this country, I’m not embarrassed we enforce our laws.”
(Photo: Jordan Fabian)