Far right Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) issued a press release over the weekend celebrating the life of a racist former lawmaker who had been pushed to resign from politics after he suggested that women should only be granted public benefits if they were sterilized beforehand.
Biggs appeared on the House floor last week to speak about the life of former state Sen. Russell Pearce, whom Biggs had served with during his own time as a state lawmaker. Pearce, who sponsored vehemently anti-immigrant legislation, died earlier this month.
Biggs also praised Pearce in a newsletter (in which he misspelled his name as “Pierce”) that was sent to constituents on Friday, describing Pearce’s political legacy as “truly unmatched.”
Biggs’s statements — both on the House floor and in the newsletter — referred to Pearce as tough and courageous, touting his public service in politics and in the military while praising his fascist and racist legacy.
Biggs celebrated Pearce’s authorship of Senate Bill 1070, which granted extraordinary powers to police and other agencies in Arizona to racially profile and harrass people who they suspected were undocumented. The bill’s text allowed police to target people for questioning based solely on their accent, their name, their display of Mexican flags, or their skin color.
The policy also required residents to provide law enforcement with documents on the spot showing they were either citizens or lawfully in the U.S. If a resident didn’t comply — including in cases where they had simply left their ID at home — the statute permitted law enforcement to make an arrest if they had “probable cause” to believe they had committed “any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”
Pearce also promoted other legislation targeting undocumented people and the broader Latinx community in Arizona. He pushed a bill, for example, to prevent children born in the U.S. to immigrant parents from being granted citizenship rights (a power state lawmakers don’t actually have due to the 14th Amendment of the federal Constitution). In promoting that bill, he described children born to immigrant parents as “anchor babies.”
Biggs’s celebration of Pearce’s life also omitted that, as head of the Republican Party in Arizona, Pearce suggested that women seeking public assistance in the state should only be allowed to do so after being sterilized or forcibly given long-term birth control that could only be reversed through surgery.
“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations…Then we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job,” Pearce said in 2014 as state party leader.
Aliento, an organization dedicated to serving undocumented, DACA, and mixed immigration status families, issued its own response to Pearce’s passing.
“We offer his family our deepest condolences,” the organization wrote in a statement that was shared on Twitter. “We also acknowledge the trauma and harm his actions and policies have caused to the immigrant community in Arizona.”
“At Aliento, we believe in truth and reconciliation,” the group added. “In order to heal, we must acknowledge the harm caused by those in power as we also acknowledge the humanity of every human regardless of their beliefs.”
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