Russell Pearce
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

U.S. senators may get a chance to hear about SB 1070 from an Arizonan — but not from the person the subcommittee chair originally sought.

Former state Senate President Russell Pearce has offered to answer the questions about the immigration law that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., posed earlier this month to Gov. Jan Brewer. Schumer has scheduled an April 24 hearing of his Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security to review the Arizona law.

The governor, however, rebuffed Schumer’s request, with Brewer’s press aide calling it “a publicity stunt.”

Pearce, however, told Capitol Media Services on Tuesday he is not concerned that Schumer, a Democrat, might try to use the opportunity to score political points. And Pearce said that, as the author of SB 1070, he would make a far better witness in the structured format of congressional hearings, with limited time for statements, questions and answers, than Brewer, who only signed the bill that was sent to her.

“You know the game,” he said.

“I know why it was written,” Pearce said. “I know every section of the bill. There’s nobody better to explain it to them.”

Schumer press aide Brian Fallon said his boss would be happy to hear from Pearce. He said, though, the decision is not Schumer’s alone: Since each party gets a limited number of witnesses, Fallon said all the Republicans on the panel need to agree who to invite.

In any event, Fallon said the hearing on SB 1070 will occur on April 24. He said who else will be invited has yet to be determined.

And Fallon, noting Pearce’s offer, also took a parting shot at Brewer.

“It is interesting that other Arizona officials responsible for this law are willing to come and defend it, but not Gov. Brewer,” he said. “We hope she does not plan to leave it to others to defend the law she signed.”

In his letter to Brewer earlier this month, Schumer wrote that he wants to know why she signed SB 1070 in 2010.

The senator also told Brewer he wanted to know “whether you believe SB 1070 is necessary in light of the substantially increased security situation along our southern border.” And, he wanted to hear from Brewer whether she believes SB 1070 should remain in perpetuity “irrespective of whether conditions further improve along the southern border.”

While Brewer shows no interest in being part of what Schumer is planning, Pearce said he has no such worries about being used as a foil by Schumer during a congressional hearing.

“I would love to go back and be challenged and let them ask the toughest questions they want,” Pearce told Capitol Media Services. “I would love for them to challenge me on the constitutionality, states’ rights and the impact SB 1070 has had in a good way.”

Schumer has made it quite clear how he feels about SB 1070.

In his letter to Brewer, the senator said even if the state law was needed when Brewer signed it, there have been major changes in federal laws and policies designed to secure the border — and make state legislation like this unnecessary.

He specifically cited his own 2010 legislation allocating an extra $600 million to hire more Border Patrol agents, deploy more aerial drones and increase funding for prosecutors and federal courts. He said the Border Patrol now has twice as many officers than in 2004 when Republican George W. Bush was president.

Pearce said if Schumer is expecting him to say that SB 1070 is no longer necessary — or might not be necessary in the future — he is mistaken.

“Will there ever be a point where you won’t need a law against homicide?” Pearce asked.

“Is there ever a time you won’t need a law against trespassing or theft? No.”

More to the point, Pearce said any belief that illegal immigration can be curtailed solely with federal efforts is mistaken.

“The battle will never be won without the states’ participation in the enforcement of these laws,” he said.

Pearce’s contention that SB 1070 merely allows the state to enforce federal laws is at the heart of Arizona’s defense of the law at the Supreme Court. By contrast, a federal judge ruled that several provisions of the measure are preempted by federal law, a decision upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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