On April 23, 2010, the day Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the infamous immigration bill — Senate Bill 1070 — I made a decision to travel to Arizona to work on a book and documentary on the subject of immigration. Watching on the Internet, I was inspired by the student protests at the Arizona State Capital; reminiscent of the civil rights struggle of the 60’s. I arrived in Arizona in time to attend the March in Phoenix, where tens of thousands of Latinos marched in protest of SB 1070. Somehow, I felt a kindred spirit. This was the civil rights movement of my generation. So, I engaged.
But after the march – nothing happened; nothing on the side of those who opposed Senate Bill 1070, that is. Even with the support of the President of the United States, nobody seemed to DO anything about the legislation and other bills being proposed to rid Arizona of all undocumented Latinos.
Election time came and I was hopeful that Arizonans would realize their power at the polls and fire the politicians who sponsor and support anti-immigration legislation. But Arizonans gave Governor Jan Brewer a second term and re-elected Senator John McCain for the fifth time. I talked to many Arizonans at the grass roots level who felt they had no power against the anti-immigration machine that ran the State. I talked to my Latino friends across the country, trying to understand why they wouldn’t simply unite in the example of the African-American civil rights movement. But, no one could explain the complacency.
So when I got an email the other day seeking support for the recall of Senator Russell Pearce, Tea Party favorite, author and sponsor of Senate Bill 1070 and now Arizona Senate President, I decided to write about it and entitled the blog ‘It’s About Time, Arizona.’ A few days later while researching for the blog, I visited the site of the organization responsible for the recall, Citizens for a Better Arizona. And there on the front of the website were the words. ‘It’s About Time.’
Amazing! All of this time, I thought I was the only person on this earth who wondered why Arizonans wouldn’t just stand up and DO something. But as noted on their website, CitizensForABetterAZ.org, since January, 2011, they had been working to gather signatures for the recall of Senate President Russell Pearce. In the end, they gathered more than 18,000 signatures; more than double the signatures needed to force a recall election and more signature than Pearce received when he was elected Senator. Citizens for a Better Arizona co-founder and Phoenix Republican activist Chad Snow explained their purpose, “We want to send a message to Senator Pearce, to every legislator down here at the Arizona legislature, that this kind of extreme, ideologically driven policies will no longer be tolerated in our state.”
I love Arizona. It is one of the most beautiful states I’ve ever visited. On their website, the organization paraphrases Dr. Martin Luther King and reflects my sentiments exactly, “True progress does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability. Things do not get better with the mere passage of time – from one day to the next or from one year to the next. True progress occurs when people – through their hard work, determination and sacrifice – make a decision to ACT.”
Calculated or not, notably missing from the reasons for the recall is Pearce’s anti-immigration legislation. Snow makes it clear that the two main issues that Pearce has worked for – immigration and gun control – are not the reasons for their recall effort. He said, “We don’t take a stand on any of those issues – immigration, gun control. We think those things are irrelevant. We think the most important things for Arizonans is putting our economy back on track and creating jobs. We think that Russell Pearce has a horrible track record and those are not his priorities.”
This historic special recall election is set for November 8, 2011. Never before has an Arizona Senator been recalled and never before has a Senate President, in any state, been recalled at any time in the history of the United States.
Joining the efforts to recall Senator Russell Pearce is independent pollster Michael O’Neil of O’Neil Associates Inc. in Tempe, Arizona. Risking the future of his business and livelihood, O’Neil started Citizens for a Sane Arizona and a website, SaneArizona.com. O’Neil defended crossing the line of neutrality in this statement; “I did this after a great deal of thought because I’ve maintained a position of absolute neutrality. This case presents such a harm to the state that I basically concluded that it’s time for Mike O’Neil, citizen, to step up. I decided this case was just too extreme and just too much to ignore. The harm that’s being done to this state, the level of hate and scapegoating just called for stepping up, and damn the consequences.”
Go Arizona! It’s About Time. Now, who’s next?
Thank you so much for reading my op-eds. I would love to hear from you. Did anything resonate with you? Let me know in the comments below.
Also, if you found this op-ed enlightening, please share it with your friends on social media.
As always, thank you for allowing me to share in your journey to purpose. I am forever grateful.