Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Bigot Bill Scuttled by Freedom's Phoenix? And Ernie Hancock Calls Pearce a "Judas Goat"

Let's hear it for the Libertarians. It seems civil liberties concerns raised by writers like John Green over at Freedom's Phoenix may have gotten the Ron Paul-wing of the local GOP up in arms over a provision in state Senator Russell Pearce's bigot bill SB 1070/HB 2632, which they call a "back door" to the federal REAL ID Act. 

That's an act that would essentially make your state driver's license into a national form of identification, with all of your info being freely exchanged between the state and the feds.

Green points to a section in the proposed Pearce legislation, which states that any public official in the state of Arizona, or any of its political subdivisions, "may not be prohibited or in any way restricted" from sharing "the immigration status of any individual" or exchanging that information with "any other federal, state, or local government entity."

The law is so broad that Libertarian claims of this being a back door to a national ID are quite valid. The night before the Pearce bill went to the floor of the House, Freedom's Phoenix's owner Ernie Hancock sent out a link to the Green article via Hancock's e-mail database, which includes all state legislators.

The mass e-mail drew blood in Republican ranks far more efficaciously than any pro-immigrant argument. Yesterday, the bill's sponsor Rep. David Gowan was forced to move that the bill be "retained on the schedule," leaving the legislation in limbo

Gowan later told Arizona Capitol Times reporter Jim Small that, "We just had some issues within the Republican caucus." He didn't name what those "issues" were.

Apparently, Pearce himself felt the need to respond to the Freedom's Phoenix attack with a long, rambling e-mail that denied there was any provision in the bill that opened the gate to Real I.D. 

Freedom's Phoenix posted a copy of the e-mail today. 

"Ernie Hancock put out information on this bill that needs to corrected right now about a National ID piece and an ability to detain folks indefinitely," the Pearce e-mail reads. "I wrote the bill and it has NO such provision. It is such a stretch, it is unbelievable. I have a memo from our Constitutional attorney coming to verify this very fact. It is the black helicopter mentality.

"I understand and believe in the Constitution and work hard to honor it in all I do. I do not now or never have supported any form of National ID. The other issue he speaks about is detention. Nothing in this bill allows for detention of citizens at all and illegal aliens only as allowed under federal law for purposes of determining legal status for purposes of deportation."

Green responded by accusing Pearce of "red-handed lying," and, indeed, despite Pearce's assertion that "Nothing in this bill allows for detention of citizens at all," the bill does in fact state that,

"A law enforcement officer, without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States."

What if a cop messes up and detains a U.S. citizen or someone else legally in our country, and gets sued as a result? The bill orders that the cop be indemnified by his or her law enforcement agency for all reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees. Talk about a green light to violate your civil rights.

Hancock was in rare form when I called him for a comment on Pearce's debacle of a bill. Hancock insisted that, despite Pearce's claims to the contrary, Pearce has long been an advocate of Real I.D.

"This is the police state in immigration camouflage," said Hancock of the bill. "You want to know how that Nazi Germany [stuff] happens? This is how it happens."

Hancock observed that the immigration issue often becomes a Trojan horse for civil liberties, with people willing to give up their rights in exchange for ridding their community of illegal immigrants. He called Russell Pearce a "Judas goat," leading ordinary citizens "to the slaughter."

Thing is, Hancock has the ear of many Republican legislators who consider themselves libertarian with a small "l." So his opposition to the measure counts. Could the Libertarians of Freedom's Phoenix kill Russell Pearce's dream bill? All I can say is, if they do, I'll give them all the credit in the world.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons