Russell Pearce: ‘You Are Not a Citizen of the United States’

The self-proclaimed 'John Wayne of the Legislature' takes to tentherism to usurp the federal government's power.

By Thoai Lu Mar 23, 2011

Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce is at it again. During a speech at the Oceanside Tea Party rally, Pearce had the audacity to claim that Americans aren’t even citizens of the United States, but rather citizens of "sovereign states," Think Progress reported.

In Pearce’s speech, he denounced the federal government’s efforts to stop Arizona’s implementation of its radical anti-immigration law. In his view, since Americans are citizens of "sovereign states," we should logically be loyal to the individual states rather than the federal government. Pearce said:

"Do you know what existed before the Congress, the states? Do you know, you’re not a citizen of the United States. You’re a citizen of a sovereign state. The fifty sovereign states makes up United States of America, we’re citizens of those sovereign states. It is not a delegated authority. It’s an inherent authority that states have over the federal government. [applause] It’s about time somebody gets it right!"

This branch of thinking is called tentherism, which invokes Constitution’s 10th amendment to argue that a whole host of the federal government’s powers are unwarranted. It’s ironic, given Pearce’s tireless campaign to rewrite the 14th Amendment to ban children of undocumented immigrants who are born in the U.S. from obtaining citizenship. Victor Goode dug through the Right’s birthright citizenship mania last year, writing: 

All of which is to say that the tension between America’s democratic ideals and its long history of racism on the question of citizenship lurks behind any discussion of the 14th Amendment. Until its ratification, immigration and naturalization were limited to white persons. Even after its passage, Native American children, though subject to U.S. jurisdiction, were typically declared members of a separate racial and national group and therefore not eligible for citizenship. Asians were for years denied the opportunity to seek citizenship and for a period were barred from even entering the country. Although African Americans gained citizenship through the 14th Amendment, the same Supreme Court that decided Wonk Kim Ark limited their rights with the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v Ferguson.

Pearce’s outlandish statements don’t come as too much of a surprise. As Julianne Hing reported earlier this month that he aspires to be the "John Wayne of the Legislature," having made a name on anti-immigrant policy. In the future, if he wants to draw support for his policy, I would advise against picking and choosing which parts of the Constitution best fit calculated rhetoric.