Pearce and Lewis Spar Over Immigration

October 07, 2011

Immigration is the key issue dividing Arizona's State Senate President and his opponent in a November recall election.

At a debate Thursday night, Senator Russell Pearce (left) and businessman Jerry Lewis (right) sparred over whether Arizona’s tough immigration laws have been a boost or a bust. Lewis is seeking to replace Pearce as the Legislative District 18 State Senator.

The two men agreed on many issues, like school choice and reforming state worker retirement plans. But they differed sharply on how the state should tackle immigration. Lewis said laws like SB 1070 are hurting the state’s economy.

"We are seen as a very unfriendly business state. We are seen as something akin to 1964 Alabama," said Lewis, causing Pearce supporters in the crowd to boo and sneer. "Business owners do not want to move here in the current environment."

But Pearce thinks SB 1070 has actually been a benefit.

Arizona suffers from a great reputation, not a bad reputation," Pearce said. "Everywhere the Governor goes, she [gets] standing ovations when she talks about what Arizona has done. The nation is proud of us. We’ve changed the debate in Washington, D.C.”

Another issue raised was whether undocumented immigrants should receive in-state tuition at state universities. Pearce is opposed, stating that it would give students here illegally a leg up. Lewis said it’s important to uphold the rule of law, but to address the overall issue of immigration reform in a humane way.

Early voting in the recall election starts October 13.