Jessica Weisberg on Russell Pearce and the GOP and Jonah Engle on the fight to end the War on Drugs.


DEPORTED FROM OFFICE: On November 8, Russell Pearce, the lawmaker behind Arizona’s blitzkrieg on undocumented immigrants, was ousted from the state legislature after ten years in office. Best known as the architect of SB 1070, which requires state police to check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, he more recently backed bills to require hospitals to check the status of incoming patients and to deny citizenship to children born to undocumented parents. Pearce lost in a recall election to Jerry Lewis, an improbable rival. Both men are conservative Republicans, Mormon and longtime residents of the sprawling Phoenix suburb of Mesa. But Lewis advocates for prosecuting real criminals rather than those whose only crime is an expired visa. He learned Spanish in order to speak with congregants at his church. Pearce, meanwhile, wrote a law to make English Arizona’s official language.

Even as Republicans continue to treat anti-immigrant rhetoric as smart politics—
at a recent GOP debate, Michele Bachmann vowed to build a “double-walled fence” along the US–Mexico border, while Mitt Romney and Rick Perry competed to see who could invoke “illegals” more frequently—will Pearce’s ouster cause the GOP to soften its tone?

“I’m hoping it will shake people up,” says Linda Chavez, a conservative commentator who served in the Reagan White House. Chavez believes that Republicans have misguidedly catered to a vocal but negligible part of their electoral base. “Those kinds of comments will draw applause but not votes,” she says. They may also isolate Latino voters in swing states like Florida, Nevada and North Carolina. As Angela Marie Kelley, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, puts it, “Republicans are drinking a slow poison.”   JESSICA WEISBERG

As crackdowns on medical marijuana providers continue in the United States and drug war deaths rise in Mexico, drug policy reformers gathered in Los Angeles in early November for the largest ever International Drug Policy Reform Conference. Attendees included Javier Sicilia, the Mexican poet whose son was murdered by the Gulf Cartel this year. Honoring the more than 50,000 people who have been killed or disappeared in Mexico over the past five years, he called on Americans to help end the drug war. “Drug prohibition and the arms industry, which illegally sends weapons to 
my country, are killing and destroying us, 
and we have to stop it together,” he said.

In tandem with the conference, the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement kicked off a national campaign 
to register 1 million formerly incarcerated Americans to vote in 2012, and to expand its 
Ban the Box campaign to reduce discrimination against job seekers with records.

A recent Gallup poll found that for the first time, more Americans support legalizing marijuana than making it a crime. This year alone, the NAACP, the US Conference of Mayors and the Global Commission on Drug Policy have all come out against the drug war. Although there are differing ideas among reformers about how best to address the challenges presented by drug use, Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which organized the conference, said he looks “forward to the day when the fights that are the most consequential for drug policy in America are the ones that happen among ourselves.”   JONAH ENGLE

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