Russell Pearce's Fall Argues Arizona Compact's Time Is Now

The Flight into Egypt: Christ as Illegal Immigrant
The Flight into Egypt: Christ as Illegal Immigrant
Anno Domini, Edwin Long

Former state Senate President Russell Pearce is history. Tomorrow, Jerry Lewis, his victorious challenger in the Legislative District 18 recall race is scheduled to be sworn in as LD 18's new state Senator.

Today, Citizens for a Better Arizona, the group that forced the recall in LD 18 will announce its goals in regards to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, two politicians who have shamelessly exploited the nativist agenda to advance their own political careers.

Unlike Pearce, they are not true believers. Arpaio and Brewer are opportunists, their fingers to the proverbial wind. And even their desiccated digits must feel some inkling that the breeze is beginning to blow in a different direction. This, though their political actions have yet to change in regards to immigration, or anything else, for that matter.

Then, there's the recent poll done by ASU's Morrisson Institute indicating that 78 percent of Arizonans would support a pathway to citizenship for longtime residents whose presence is undocumented. 

All of these factors argue for an immediate and vigorous non-partisan campaign in favor of an Arizona version of the now famous Utah Compact, a statement of principles arguing for humane immigration reform.

I know there are individuals and groups working on such an effort now behind the scenes. Earlier this year, attempts at getting such a compact approved by the Mesa City Council dissipated despite the best efforts of those involved.

But this is a different day, as has been acknowledged, finally, by almost every mainstream media outlet in Arizona. 

Such a movement is not something I as a commentator or as a reporter can instigate, obviously. It must be authentic, one comprised of business leaders, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, clergy, activists and ordinary citizens. 

The original Utah Compact, issued in late 2010, drew support from the Mormon Church and from elected political leaders, from the state's Attorney General to former Governors.

The situation in Arizona is such that our current Governor and Attorney General have placed themselves in the camp of the extremists. And that camp remains a comfortable place for such politicians to remain.

What's necessary is to make it a very uncomfortable place for them to be. An Arizona Compact -- one that draws broad support without sacrificing humanity and common sense -- will make the extremists' position in Arizona increasingly untenable.

I write this now only to spur on those already working on such a proposition, and to encourage them not to so water down any Arizona Compact as to render it meaningless.

The momentum on immigration, for the moment, is with moderation. And we cannot afford to lose that momentum.

Christmas' advent is instructive. Being an agnostic, I cannot regard the nativity as more than a powerful myth, and a hopeful one, a myth we tell ourselves to preach the brotherhood of man.

In part of that myth, the Christ child and his family fled into Egypt to escape Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents. 

At least symbolically, they were illegal immigrants, escaping tyranny, though criminals in the eyes of Herod the Great.

The power of that story as an instructive tool should not be lost, as many of those on both sides of the immigration debate accept the Birth of Christ and the subsequent Flight into Egypt as part of their belief systems. 

That's not to say that an Arizona Compact should be the province of any one faith. 

My only concern is that the momentum of our efforts not be allowed to wither in what should be a time for an even greater push to redeem Arizona from the sins of its near past, and its present.

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