Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Cost Arizona a Congressional Seat

State Senate President-elect Russell Pearce's SB 1070 either directly or indirectly assisted in Arizona's disappointing census numbers, which resulted in Arizona picking up just one Congressional seat, instead of two.

That's the message from a recent piece in Salon.com by Philadelphia-based journalist Daniel Denvir, "Did immigration law cost Arizona a seat in Congress?" The article is not conclusive, and experts disagree about the extent to which SB 1070 deflated census numbers, but it's obvious that it did have an impact.

Indeed, the stated intent of Pearce's law is "attrition through enforcement." Pearce himself has been upfront about 1070's purpose: Make life difficult enough for the undocumented, and they will "self-deport."

Problem is, the census counts everybody, or it's supposed to, and it only comes around once every ten years. It's from these numbers that Congressional seats are apportioned.

So when people leave the state -- undocumented or not -- it deflates the numbers. That's a no-brainer. Add to that the fact that some Latino groups in Arizona boycotted the census because of 1070, and that plenty of Latinos were wary of completing the census due to the climate of hate and fear here in Sand Land, and you've got a recipe for failure on the Congressional-seat front.

True, the economy, both national and local, was likely the biggest factor in Arizona's not picking up another seat. The recession is also the main reason illegal immigration is down. But Pearce and the hullabaloo over his breathing-while-brown legislation didn't help matters.

There's a lesson here for the local Democrats, too. Their lack of a pushback on 1070 was fatal. If there had been more vocal, mainstream political opposition to 1070 from the get-go, and if it had been sustained throughout the campaign season, I think it would have, to some degree, ameliorated Arizona's atmosphere of bigotry. 

"So what if we only picked up one seat?" I'm sure that's what some out there will say. But why would anyone with a lick of sense want Arizona to have less representation in the U.S. House?

After all, other states such as California, Florida and New York benefited from having everyone counted, as Denvir noted in his piece. But here in Arizona, we seem to be content with shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot until there's no foot left. Or, moving up, no leg. No torso. No brain.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons

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