A cog in the wheel of local enforcement legislation, Arizona state Senator and now Senate President-elect, Russell Pearce, predictably said he will continue his immigration crusade to repeal part of the 14th Amendment despite the looming state budget crisis. A recent article points out that Pearce, in the throes of last minute campaigning, pledged that he would make boosting Arizona’s flailing economy his number one priority instead of pushing yet another immigration bill. Not surprisingly, however, Pearce told reporters today that “he never promised the 14th Amendment bills wouldn’t be heard, only that he wouldn’t sponsor it.” Sound fishy? That’s because it is. Sponsor of Arizona’s controversial enforcement law SB1070, Pearce has a history of not only prioritizing immigration enforcement legislation, but accepting campaign contributions from the prison lobby who helped write it.

Conceding to Arizona Republicans who feared Pearce’s immigration enforcement fervor would top other state priorities should he be elected Senate President, Pearce pledged to put off the bill until 2012 and focus on “jump-starting the Arizona economy by working on an economic stimulus package consisting of tax cuts and incentives to create jobs.” Now, however, Pearce is walking back his pledge:

He is now telling reporters that he never promised the 14th Amendment bills wouldn’t be heard, only that he wouldn’t sponsor it. Instead, Rep. John Kavanagh will take the lead on the measure when the legislative session begins in January, and Pearce says he will do everything in his power to make sure it passes.

Sadly, mincing words seems to be least of Sen. Pearce’s problems. Pearce recently defended himself against an NPR story which “traced donations from private-prison corporations to lawmakers, saying that 30 of SB 1070’s 36 co-sponsors received contributions over the next six months.” The story connects Pearce to a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization consisting of state legislators and powerful corporations like Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), who apparently had a hand in drafting SB1070—a law designed to round up undocumented immigrants to fill their detention beds.

Senator Pearce is no stranger to co-authoring enforcement legislation. He’s apparently teaming up again with Kris Kobach of the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the legal arm of restrictionist group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), to draft legislation to repeal the part of the 14th Amendment which allows for birthright citizenship. IRLI, mind you, is an immigration restrictionist organization that seems to care more about the proliferation of enforcement legislation than fixing our broken immigration system. At a recent civil rights symposium at George Mason University, General Counsel for IRLI, Michael Hethmon, brazenly admitted they weren’t getting the immigration restriction policies they wanted federally, and instead decided to try and do it through state legislatures—throwing pieces of legislation against the wall to “see what sticks.” He also commented that the Arizona law is a means to an end for the restrictionist movement, not an end in itself.

The point is that no one should really be surprised by state Sen. Pearce, his broken promises, or his involvement with private-prison corporations and restrictionist groups—because prioritizing immigration enforcement over fixing Arizona’s dragging economy is clearly a means to an end—his career .

Photo by bradcorban.