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Voters reject extremism in Arizona and across nation – What does it mean for 2012?

By Suman Raghunathan, Progressive States Network, ABC15 Arizona, 1/1/2012

Over a year after the passage of SB 1070, what happened at the ballot box in Arizona this November was indicative a national backlash against not just anti-immigrant policies, but similar extremist overreach in state legislators on a number of issues.

The verdict that Arizonans handed down on State Senator Russell Pearce this November was an historic one, as he became the first state lawmaker in Arizona history and the first Senate President of any state to be recalled. His support for extremist policies – including his close ties with the controversial, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council – resulted in a bipartisan group of activists leading an ultimately successful charge to rein in his radical agenda.

Chief among the policies that drove the outrage against Senator Pearce was his key role in advancing SB 1070. When Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill passed in 2010, the expectation was that such broad enforcement-only policies would spread like wildfire through other states. Yet Arizona’s approach has been rejected by the vast majority of states in which similar legislation has been introduced, with nineteen states defeating SB 1070 copycat proposals this year and refusing to follow the misguided path blazed by Senator Pearce and Arizona’s legislature. Over the past two years, voters across the nation have shown clearly that they understand the value of crafting common-sense state immigration policy that seeks to expand opportunity and keep families whole – both immigrant and native-born families alike.
In states that have seen copycat bills passed – including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah – the backlash has been immediate. Every state that has passed a SB 1070 copycat bill has seen costly legal challenges, a fleeing workforce and tax base, threats to boycott tourist industries, and hurtful economic losses. This is one reason why efforts by businesses similar to the one earlier this year backed by dozens of Arizona CEOs to rein in an extremist anti-immigrant agenda have seen traction in other states as well. They know that our state economies cannot afford the effects of divisive and economically devastating policies like SB 1070.

The backlash against extremist right-wing overreach in the states this year was not limited to the rejection of the self-proclaimed “Tea Party President” Pearce. Other results from every corner of the nation on Election Day showed a decisive rejection of right-wing attacks in state legislatures this year – targeting not only immigrants, but also women, workers, historically disenfranchised voters, and the middle class. Decisive majorities of voters in Ohio and Maine took to the polls to repeal laws passed by their state legislatures this year to strip workers of collective bargaining rights and needlessly make it more difficult for citizens to vote. In Mississippi and Iowa, voters rejected social extremism that ignored jobs and the economy in favor of divisive attacks on reproductive rights and same sex marriage.

As 2012 legislative sessions are set to kick off, responsible state lawmakers across the nation are aiming to build on this momentum against such attacks on the 99% by advancing policies that truly ensure economic security for all. As part of that effort, over ninety state lawmakers representing thirty-eight states including Arizona are working to advance positive pro-immigrant legislation that reflects our core values as a nation and prioritizes economic growth over divisive attacks. As the national backlash against conservative overreach this year shows, eschewing destructive attacks in favor of building economic security for families and prosperity in our states is an approach that voters in Arizona and states across the nation emphatically support.