Recently ousted Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce officially has a new job. This week, the Tempe-based conservative anti-immigration organization Ban Amnesty Now announced that Pearce has been chosen as its new president. Pearce previously served as an honorary co-chair of the group. In his new capacity, the former legislator will become the public face of the organization, leading educational, advocacy and fundraising efforts aimed at fighting government efforts to legalize the residency status of any unauthorized immigrants in this country. Pearce will also host the weekly radio show, “Ban Amnesty Now Radio” on a local talk news station.
Although BAN claims on its website that its purpose is to “unite Americans” in working to enact laws and promote policies that secure our country and its borders, many strategies used by the organization appear paradoxically divisive. One altered photograph featured prominently on the website shows President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wearing Nazi-style red arm bands stamped with the Obama “Rising Sun” logo. In addition, the organization continues to insist, despite evidence to the contrary, that President Obama is not a naturally born U.S. citizen.
In a particularly shocking move, BAN proved too controversial even for Joe Arpaio, when the infamous Maricopa County Sheriff officially cut all ties with the organization in 2010. During the 2010 midterm elections, BAN was accused of orchestrating a voter suppression effort aimed at the state’s immigrant and Latino voters. Although BAN claimed it was merely sending legal poll watchers to monitor the vote, Arpaio and his political consultant angrily denounced both the group and its then president Sean McCaffrey for using his name in promoting this effort.
Pearce is certainly no stranger to controversy himself, having been accused of a variety of wrongdoings during his time in office, including receiving kickbacks from the Fiesta Bowl organization, illicitly corroborating with private prison companies in developing state immigration legislation, and consorting with white supremacists. Although Pearce has not yet been charged with any crimes as a result of the accusations made against him, he was forced last year into a recall election for his seat in the state senate, which he lost to Jerry Lewis.
Regardless of the controversies surrounding him, the choice of Pearce as BAN president makes some sense, as he remains popular among a select segment of the state’s population as a result of his major achievement in office, the passage of trendsetting anti-immigrant bill SB 1070.