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By: Mark Brodie on 10/20/2011
Early voting is underway in the recall election of state senate president Russell Pearce. There’s not a lot of policy disagreement between the two candidates in that race…but one issue on which they do not see eye to eye is illegal immigration…and how the state’s laws make Arizona look outside its borders. KJZZ’s Mark Brodie reports.
Arizona has an image problem….or not, depending on which of the candidates you talk to. State senate President Russell Pearce, who authored S-B 1070 says Arizona is a model that other states are trying to follow.
"We can be proud of the things we’re doing here in AZ.".
Pearce’s opponent, though, sees it differently. Charter school Executive Jerry Lewis says not only is the state’s image a problem…he says it’s the biggest problem facing the state’s economy.
"It’s tough for businesses to want to move here, to want to grow their businesses with the current image that we have."
Lewis says Arizona has become known for one thing…and that cuts to the state’s tourism budget have made it difficult to overcome that.
"When we started to focus on just one issue, immigration, immigration, immigration, and took our eye off other key issues that are important to Mesa voters, and important to the people of AZ, I think that’s when we started to see AZ’s image change."
"We're a state that everybody’s looking to…we ought to be very, very proud of what we’ve accomplished."
Again, senate president Russell Pearce.
"I hear it every day when I travel the country or when the governor travels the country, AZ gets standing ovations for the things we’ve accomplished…standing ovations almost everywhere we go."
In addition to S-B 1070, Pearce cites other efforts to curb illegal immigration he’s been a part of…including the state’s employer sanctions law…and a voter approved measure to generally deny bail to illegal immigrants charged with serious felonies. Pearce doesn’t expect lawmakers to take up any major illegal immigration bills in their next session. That’s despite the defeat this year of several high profile measures…including one that would have denied automatic citizenship to children born in the U-S to illegal immigrants. Pearce says the legislature will likely focus on tweaking existing laws.
"There’s always more you can do…1st of all, the main job right now is to stop the fraud that’s going on with public benefits, making sure that people are actually citizens or legally here and qualify under the law and so we’ll do more when it comes to that, but I think we’ve got good laws."
Pearce says measures like 1070 are so popular, other states are trying to pass similar ones. In fact, Alabama is now considered to have the toughest illegal immigration laws in the country…after approving an Arizona-inspired bill. But Jerry Lewis says Arizona is taking the wrong approach.
"The federal government hasn’t done its constitutional responsibility, but we’ve been focusing on trying to circumvent that, instead of bringing them to the table."
Lewis says the state and feds have to work together on immigration…even if Arizona doesn’t agree with what Washington is doing. Election Day is November 8th….when Mesa, and the rest of the state will see if image is, in fact, everything.