When Arizona passed the nation's most draconian anti-immigrant law in 2010, SB 1070, every effort to stop or reverse this law failed. Randy Parraz, the main organizer of the Pearce recall, provides a behind the scenes perspective of how ordinary citizens can organize and win when others thought it impossible. So how did a small number of Arizonans, led by a progressive Democrat and a Republican Mormon, band together to take down one of the most powerful and extreme politicians responsible for pushing Arizona’s anti-immigrant agenda?
As senate president, Russell Pearce escalated his attacks against immigrants. He worked hand in hand with the self-described “toughest sheriff in America,” Joe Arpaio, notorious for his worksite raids and unlawful stops of Latinos and immigrants.
While establishment leaders remained content to wait Pearce out, a few concerned citizens decided to do something a bit more radical—to recall and remove Pearce from office.
In a matter of 18 months, Arizona went from ground zero in the fight against anti-immigrant hostility to zero tolerance for any and all anti-immigrant legislation.
Ten years ago, this November in Arizona, the first senate president in the history of the United States was recalled and removed from office. Russell Pearce, the author of SB 1070, had spent over a decade in office attacking immigrants, workers, minorities, unions and women. The highly controversial recall campaign was launched by Citizens for a Better Arizona at a time when few thought it had a chance. In a matter of 18 months, Arizona went from ground zero in the fight against anti-immigrant hostility to zero tolerance for any and all anti-immigrant legislation. Since November 2011, there has not been one anti-immigrant bill in Arizona passed and signed into law.
On November 16, 2021, a special celebration will be held at the Wright House in Mesa, Arizona, to commemorate the Pearce Recall and to highlight how one of the most diverse coalitions of citizens—made up of Democrats, Republicans, independents, Mormons, Catholics, unions, seniors, youth, Latinos, Dreamers and many other individuals—who worked together to permanently dismantle Arizona’s anti-immigrant machine.
Randy Parraz is an organizer, social entrepreneur, author, founder of various social justice organizations and currently co-founder and President of the Organizing Institute for Democracy. Randy has spent the past 26 years engaged in the work of building power and moving people into action. Randy’s introduction to social justice began when he observed his father, Deputy Sheriff John Parraz, organize the Latino Peace Officers Association in the 1970s to combat discrimination in the recruitment, hiring and retention of Latino officers. Randy’s understanding of organizing and framework for building power has been heavily influenced by Ernie Cortes of the Industrial Areas Foundation and Marshall Ganz, a former UFW organizer who worked closely with Cesar Chavez for 16 years. Randy took courses on organizing from both Cortes and Ganz while pursuing his Master’s in Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. It was during this time Randy stopped pursuing his life-long goal of being a lawyer and embraced his true calling of becoming an organizer.Read More