Emails from ALEC Member Russell Pearce Show Anti-Immigrant Law May Have Been Racially Motivated

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona has asked the man behind the "show me your papers" anti-immigrant law in that state to show them his emails. An open records request to former Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce netted thousands of email records sent from Pearce's account that suggest Arizona's SB 1070, which was taken up as an American Legislative Exchange Council "model bill" but recently struck down in large part by the U.S. Supreme Court, was motivated by racism and xenophobia.

Russell Pearce email

"We are much like the Titanic as we inbreed millions of Mexico's poor, the world's poor and we watch our country sink," reads one email obtained through the open records request. "They create enclaves of separate groups that shall balkanize our nation into fractured nightmares of social unrest and poverty," reads another of the emails, which appear to have been sent to and from Pearce himself.

As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of SB 1070 on grounds it was preempted by federal law, but withheld judgment on the "papers please" provision that requires law enforcement to verify the immigration status of any person stopped, detained or arrested if they claim a "reasonable suspicion" the person is in the country illegally. But the Court left the door open for additional challenges to the provision on other grounds.

The ACLU filed the case Friendly House v. Whiting in federal court challenging the provision on grounds that it violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection protections by encouraging racial profiling, as well as violating the Fourth Amendment by unconstitutionally extending the length of time a person can be detained.

The ACLU included Pearce's emails as evidence in the case to prove SB 1070 was racially motivated.

"Can we maintain our social fabric as a nation with Spanish fighting English for dominance?" reads one of the emails sent from Pearce's account. "It's like importing leper colonies and hope we don't catch leprosy. It's like importing thousands of Islamic jihadists and hope they adapt to the American Dream."

The case is currently before Judge Susan R. Bolton, who initially enjoined SB 1070 on federal preemption grounds in U.S. v. Arizona, the same case that was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pearce Took SB 1070 to ALEC for Approval before Introducing It

Pearce was recalled in November of 2011 due in part to his harsh stance on immigration. While in the Arizona Senate, Pearce was a member of ALEC's now-disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force whose corporate and legislative members approved SB 1070 as well as voter ID, "stand your ground," and prison privatization laws.

In December 2009, a few months before Pearce introduced the bill in the Arizona Senate, the ALEC task force convened and Pearce sat down behind closed doors with lobbyists for the for-profit prison and bail industries to approve the "No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act" as a model bill. Private sector members of the task force included the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which before the meeting had identified immigrant detention as a profit center important for its future growth, since around half of all immigrant detention facilities are operated by private prison operators. CCA later claimed that it never voted on ALEC bills, despite having previously co-chaired that task force as it approved numerous bills to privatize state prisons and increase the length of sentences for various crimes. Also an ALEC member is the private bail industry, which also has a financial interest in bonds posted by immigrants.

In the wake of controversy surrounding ALEC's legislative agenda, 30 companies and 56 legislators have dropped their ALEC membership. In recent days, General Motors and Walgreens became the 29th and 30th corporations to cut ties with the controversial organization. ALEC is currently having its 39th annual meeting in Salt Lake City. Find out more at and

(this article has been updated)


No question that here in Arizona, the vast right wing is largely racist. It's good to see push-back against that. I'm thinking, though, that the bigger role race plays in SB-1070 and other states' similar Model Bills is that it's so convenient to have a generally less wealthy class that's a different color, so you know who can be picked up and incarcerated with relative impunity. The contracts Arizona has with CCA, that now owns a lot of the prisons, require keeping them 90% full, which was easy to do when Arizona could incarcerate people for not having I.D. or immigration papers on them. Sometimes they could be held for weeks, until it was convenient for someone at the prisons to let them contact someone who could bring their papers. [Actual illegal border crossers have always been held in AZ prisons for weeks or months after deportation hearings, until it was convenient to drive them back to the border.] The Supreme Court is not popular here at the moment! You may have seen this. Not directly on point, but former Superior Court judge and AZ Governor Raul Castro and his assistant reported this experience on the way from his retirement home in Nogales, Sonora, to his 96th birthday party in Tucson. Good luck to all of us. Keep taking care of Madison, please.

In regard to the Fiona Makenzie post regarding racist politicians in Arizona and thier link to private contracted prisons in Northern Arizona one must also look to other populations in those prisons. It was explained to me in a University classroom that Arizona has the second highest rate of mentally ill populations in thier prisons among other states. The state could treat, feed and house this same population for one third less, outside prison walls, but refuses to do so. The state does scream they have no funds for Medicare. Hmm? The state of Arizona would rather pay the private prisons in excess and you have to ask yourself why? Remember when our troops had shoddy kevlar vest equipment and Blackwater/Xe/whatever thier name is now had the best protection? ALEC has been accused, in the least, of being a bill mill (rubbish like Stand your Ground) and at worst a dating service between politicians and big business/corporations. Where does this leave Arizona? This is a story that should be followed because mandated prison percentage populations by private contractors is frightening in Arizona. Who really owns those prisons? Who builds those prisons? Who really gets the big profits from these Arizona incarceration mills? Why is Arizona looking more like Southern Utah everyday? Visit some Northern Arizona towns yourself, especially the towns that have thier own police forces, Talibaneque, if you ask me. Why are we fighting in the Middle East for womens and childrens rights when it is plain to see during a drive by that the troops are needed throughout Arizona. Why did the Maricopa sheriff leave hundreds of child sexual and physical abuse cases linger and rot, when they intentionally looked the other way. What happened at Penn State has nothing on what happened in Phoenix regarding child sexual abuse cases and the refusal to investigate. The only thing that surprises me about ALEC is they have not made thier headquarters somewhere in Arizona, as yet but I am sure there is wining and dining to be performed.