The grassroots activist who led the successful effort to recall State Senate President Russell Pearce and now seeks to recall longtime Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio spoke passionately about the state Tuesday to the Democratic Women of Rim Country.
“We can move things forward ... we don’t have to take Arizona as it is,” proclaimed Randy Parraz as he talked about political change occurring in Arizona before a small crowd at Tiny’s restaurant.
“You can make a difference ... it’s time to step up,” Parraz challenged the audience.
He addressed the rights of Latino voters, encouraged Arizonans to cast their vote confidently, and portrayed his mission to fight for justice by recalling Arpaio. The six-term Maricopa County sheriff has spurred controversy by directing deputies to enforce federal immigration law. A federal judge has ordered the Maricopa County sheriff’s office to not make traffic stops to check immigration status while a lawsuit claiming racial profiling by the department remains in the courts.
Parraz explained that the Democrats are serving as a voice for the Latinos and standing up for them. “... their [Latinos] ballots have meant almost nothing.”
One of Parraz’s key points was bringing awareness to voters today about how they can impact the changes in government. Parraz asserted the importance of making people realize that their voices could and should be heard in society. He advocated going door-to-door, discussing politics with people, and educating them as voters, an action deemed by some to be “criminal” behavior.
Parraz called for people to make voting a priority, and he assured that it doesn’t matter what party an individual is from as long as they recognize they can make a difference.
Latinos make up 30 percent of Arizona’s population but only 25 percent of the voting age population, according to an analysis by the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University. About 69 percent of eligible Arizona Latinos were registered to vote in 2010, compared to 83 percent of non-Hispanic whites. The Hispanic share of the electorate in the state rose from about 12 percent in 2008 to 18 percent last year.
Parraz challenged individuals to examine their threshold for injustice. He said citizens must stand up against Arpaio who is “breaking the Constitution.” Parraz said his group is circulating a petition to replace Arpaio. Parraz claimed that under the leadership of Arpaio, the sheriff’s office has denied family rights and failed to investigate many sex crimes.
Arpaio, 80, won re-election for his sixth term in November. Polls once ranked Arpaio as the most popular elected official in the state, but his margins have grown more narrow. He raised $8.5 million compared to opponent Paul Penzone’s $530,000.
“The recall allows us to take Arpaio out of the four-year election process ... these opportunities are rare,” said Parraz.
According to Parraz, recalls allow people to act on their values. Parraz founded Respect Arizona, which has gathered 130,000 of the 335,000 signatures needed to force Arpaio into a recall election. Only Maricopa County residents can sign the petitions, with a May 30 deadline.
“We’ve been called to this work,” announced Parraz as he continued to “fire-up” the audience with a call to action.
Parraz also played a key role in the successful effort to recall Senate President Pearce (R-Mesa). Author of the controversial SB 1070, Pearce was unseated by moderate Republican Jerry Lewis in the recall election. Pearce then ran again in the regular election, but lost.
SB 1070 required local police to enforce federal immigration law, including checking for documentation anytime officers stop someone for another offense if they have reason to believe the person might be in the country illegally. Advocates like Pearce said the measure would help control the border and reduce crime. Critics said it would waste police resources, lead to racial profiling and make it much harder for police to operate in Hispanic communities.
Federal courts threw out most of the provisions of the law, but did uphold the portion that allows local police to check the immigration status of anyone detained for other reasons providing they have a “reasonable suspicion” might be in the country illegally. However, the court ruled police can’t keep someone in custody solely for suspicion of violating immigration law while waiting for federal authorities to respond.