The power behind Arizona’s ‘show me your ID’ law dies at 75

PHOENIX (AP) — Russell Pierce, the Republican MP who was the driving force behind Arizona’s historic 2010 immigration legislation, known as the “show me your papers” law, and other anti-immigrant measures, has died. He was 75.

Pierce’s family said on social media that he died Thursday at his home in Mesa, Arizona after falling ill.

Pierce briefly rose to national prominence over a decade ago for advocating tighter border policies in Arizona, one of the busiest centers of illegal immigration in the United States. He was a lead sponsor of Senate Bill 1070, which required law enforcement to ask suspects for immigration status if they had reason to believe they were in the US illegally.

It was the toughest anti-immigration law in the country and sparked calls for organizations to cancel conventions in Phoenix, which is a huge source of income for Arizona’s largest city.

A protester of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents working with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is arrested by Phoenix Police officers on Thursday, April 23, 2015 for blocking an intersection in front of U.S. Federal Court in Phoenix. The protest against the removal of ICE agents from county jails is timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the passage of immigration law SB 1070 in Arizona. (AP Photo/Matt York)

“The law was not only anti-immigrant, it was anti-Arizona,” said Lydia Guzman, a prominent civil rights activist who ran a hotline for migrants who were in the US illegally at the time. “People didn’t come to Arizona because the law was so unfair that it traumatized such a vulnerable community.”

Pierce was criticized by activists in the city’s rapidly growing Hispanic community for portraying immigrants as lawbreakers. Controversy over the law eventually led to the creation of local civil rights groups that registered growing numbers of Hispanic US citizens to vote and participate in their neighborhood.

In this April 24, 2012 file photo, former Arizona State Senator Russell Pierce, author of the controversial Arizona immigration law SB 1070, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

But SB 1070 also exploited the fears and frustrations of others about the porous southern border and the possible impact of immigration on their lives in Metro Phoenix.

Lawsuits have been filed over the constitutionality of SB 1070 and its compliance with the civil rights law, with detractors claiming that the law encourages racial profiling of Hispanics. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a provision requiring immigration status checks during law enforcement stops, but struck down three other provisions.

Pierce has previously supported other anti-immigration measures, including a voter-approved law that would prohibit the bail of immigrants who were in the US illegally and charged with a range of criminal offenses, including shoplifting, aggravated identity theft, sexual harassment and murder. This 2006 law was later struck down by an 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for violating rights to due process by imposing pre-trial punishment.

Another law penalized employers who hired workers who were in the US illegally, prompting protests from business owners and prompting masses of immigrants to flee to other states or return to their home countries.

“Why in the world (illegal immigrants in the US) think they have the right to break the law?” Pierce was quoted in a 2008 Associated Press article. “And we are the bad guys because we insist on upholding the law? The public does not agree with this.

Amid demographic change in Arizona, fierce community opposition to Pierce’s measures sparked a November 2011 re-election that saw him ousted from the state Senate, where he served as president.

“Churches were against him, businesses were against him because the law was hurting the Arizona economy,” said Guzman, a human rights activist.

A year after becoming the first person ever to be recalled from the Arizona Legislature, Pierce lost a return bid in the Republican primary for a seat in the State Senate.

Prisoners walk through the yard of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail in Phoenix on Thursday, January 31, 2008. The Tent City Prison is one of Arpaio’s most famous and infamous creations. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Before he was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2000 and then to the Senate, Pierce spent many years in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office, rising to the position of chief deputy of then-sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was known in the country for his anti-immigration policies. politicians.

Pierce even took charge of the infamous Arpaio prison tent complex at one point.

“My condolences to the family, friends, and many supporters of Russell Pierce, patriot, law enforcement officer, and President of the Arizona State Senate, who passed away today,” Arpaio wrote on his Facebook account. “He served honorably and honorably in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. I am proud to have appointed him as my first deputy. He will be greatly missed.”

Pierce later served as director of the Arizona Automotive Division and most recently worked for the Maricopa County Treasury.

There was no immediate information about the funeral.


Associated Press contributor Jacques Billot contributed to this report.

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