WASHINGTON, D.C. - Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the architect of Arizona's anti-immigrant law, was defeated in a recall election Tuesday. Pearce's "show me your papers" law and other legislative proposals against immigrants led to the recall that included an aggressive campaign to increase Latino voter turnout in a solidly GOP district. The following is a statement by SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina:
"A few years ago, Russell Pearce called for the mass deportation of suspected undocumented immigrants in Arizona. He wanted to bring back the 1950s-era federal deportation program sadly known as 'Operation Wetback.' More recently, he favored stripping away the constitutional rights of citizenship to children of immigrants.
"Last night, it was Pearce who was sent packing. Arizona voters expelled him from the state Senate where he has greatly harmed the people of Arizona and the state's economy as the result of his anti-immigration agenda while neglecting the needs of families seeking jobs and health care.
"It is fair to say that the Latino voters made the difference in the outcome, in which Jerry Lewis, a moderate Republican on immigration issues, defeated Pearce's extremist agenda.
"I say this with great pride. SEIU has worked with other allies in recent years to increase civic participation in the Latino community and in Arizona.
"In this race, in a very Republican district between two Republican candidates, it is important to emphasize that Latinos voted in large enough numbers to decide the outcome. What mattered to them was not the party but the positions on the issues.
"This election also offers proof to candidates everywhere - including the presidential candidates -- that the American people want solutions to real problems, not more division and demonizing of Latinos and immigrants.
"Republicans who think they do not need the votes of Latinos and fair-minded people better think again. Those who show disrespect by the way they talk about immigrants - such as building border fences that would electrocute them - will have limited political careers.
"Let's not forget that a year ago, no one would have predicted Pearce's defeat. His attacks against immigrants became legendary throughout Arizona and the U.S. after his 'show me your papers' bill became state law in in 2010.
"But the limits to his power began to emerge this spring when he tried to push more anti-immigrant bills. A swift response came from the state's top business leaders who told him to stop - he had already caused too much trouble to the state's economy, workers and the state's reputation.
"During this campaign, Pearce continued to show his disregard, not only for Latino voters, but for the election system by trying to rig the election by including a Hispanic woman - a sham candidate - on the ballot in order to suppress the Latino vote for Lewis.
"Finally, last night, the voters also told Pearce, 'Stop. Enough.' Arizona's chief anti-immigrant messenger was defeated and Latino voters helped turn the tide. Politicians need to get the message that Latinos are listening and voting.
"This is a wake-up call for 2012 and politicians better pay attention. Solutions, not extremism are the keys to political success.
"Yesterday was a good day in Arizona. Its true face is finally showing through, and we hope that this is the beginning of the healing of the harm caused by Pearce's SB 1070.
"We also sincerely hope that Gov. Brewer has heard the unmistakable message. It is time to allow Arizona to once again become the welcoming state of the past and not go down the road of hatred and division. The citizens of Arizona deserve no less."
With 2.1 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers--not just corporations and CEOs--benefit from today's global economy. www.seiu.org