Push to End Birthright Citizenship Sparks Opposition in Arizona

A push by Arizona lawmakers to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants has spawned two separate efforts to oust the architect of the proposed legislation from office.

The leader of a Latino Republican group was the first to file legal papers Thursday to recall Senate President Russell Pearce and a second group filed a similar petition Monday.  Although Pearce did not sponsor the measure, he has led a national movement to force a U.S. Supreme court ruling on whether the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to children born of those without legal status.

“We find Russell Pearce’s overt disdain for the United States Constitution to be indicative of his inability to govern as prescribed,” says the petition that Somos Republicans President Belinda “DeeDee” Blase filed on behalf of Arizonans for Better Government.

After Pearce, Blase says the group will set its sights on removing state Rep. John Kavanagh from office. Kavanagh sponsored the measure in the House. Organizers need to collect 7,756 valid signatures by May 27 to force a special election to make Pearce defending his seat—unless he chooses to resign.

The recall movement could prove a tough challenge in Legislative District 18, a Republican stronghold covering most of Mesa in eastern Maricopa County. Pearce has represented the area for a decade in the Arizona State Legislature, first in the House and then in the Senate. Republican Kavanagh dismissed the recall efforts as “political theater” with no chance for success given the popularity of Pearce’s multiple campaigns to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Another group trying to recall Pearce, Citizens for a Better Arizona, wants Pearce out of office on grounds that Arizona needs “a leader who will pass laws to create jobs, protect public education and ensure access to health care for our children and those most in need.”

Organizer Randy Parraz, a Democrat and activist, said Pearce is out of touch with Arizonans. “But because he uses a smokescreen with his immigration rhetoric, such as SB 1070 and the 14th Amendment, no one’s really holding him accountable.”

Parraz and Blase, who characterize Pearce’s political views as “extreme,” say the recall efforts are nonpartisan and include Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and others. Robert McDonald, a Mesa Democrat who tried to unseat Pearce but lost in the 2010 primary election, said he wants his senator to go back to doing state business.

“If he wants to fix immigration, why doesn’t he run for federal office?” McDonald said.