Bills to cut illegal immigration fail

AZ Senate foils citizen, driving, hospital, rent and school measures
2011-03-18T00:00:00Z 2011-03-18T12:33:59Z Bills to cut illegal immigration failHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
March 18, 2011 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Concluding the measures go too far, state senators on Thursday rejected a package of bills designed to crack down on illegal immigration.

With Republicans joining minority Democrats, lawmakers refused to approve bills designed to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

They also voted down measures to:

• Require hospitals to make an effort to determine if the people they are treating are here legally.

• Restrict the registration of vehicles to only legal residents.

• Make it a state crime for an illegal immigrant to drive in Arizona.

• Bar admission into state universities and community colleges to anyone who cannot prove citizenship or legal residency.

• Mandate that cities evict all residents of a public housing unit if even one is an illegal immigrant.

Senators also refused to require parents to provide proof of citizenship or other legal presence for any child being enrolled in school.

The votes are a major setback for Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who wrote or backed each of the five bills. And he did not hide his displeasure with foes of the bills, including colleagues.

"The only impediment to enforcing our laws is the lack of political courage on the part of our elected and appointed officials," Pearce said. "You bear the burden and responsibility for the costs and the maimings and the deaths."

At least some of the Republicans who voted against the package said they were swayed by opposition from the business community.

That campaign culminated earlier this week with a letter to legislators citing a boycott and hit to Arizona's economy from passage of last year's SB 1070, which gave police more power to arrest illegal immigrants. They argued that new moves in this direction would further slow economic development.

"It's something that the people don't want us to be focusing on," said Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix. He also said the whole debate over illegal immigration has become a "distraction"' from more important issues like the budget, crime and health care.

Pearce sniffed at the effort.

"I stand on the side of citizens, not a bunch of businessmen who write me a letter," he said. And Pearce claimed 75 percent of Arizonans support tougher state laws aimed at illegal immigrants.

They may get a chance to show that: Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said the refusal of lawmakers to adopt the bills leaves only one option: Take the issue to the ballot. Voters have approved every anti-immigrant bill that has gone to the ballot since 2004.

The most vocal opposition from some Republicans came on what has been called "birthright citizenship."

In two separate measures, the bills said Arizona citizenship - and by extension, national citizenship - would be limited to those with at least one parent who was a citizen or at least a permanent legal resident. And to segregate them, the state would have issued a different birth certificate to children if at least one parent could not prove citizenship or permanent legal residency.

Pearce said the goal was to force the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the scope of the 14th Amendment.

That amendment says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." Pearce said children of illegal immigrants are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of this country because their parents owe allegiance to a foreign power.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, countered that already is a settled issue.

But Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, argued that the political future of Arizona is dependent on adoption of all the bills.

"California chose not to address the illegal alien issue," he said. "For all intents and purposes, that state has been lost politically."

Opposition to the proposal requiring schoolchildren to produce proof of legal presence came on different grounds.

Technically, it would not have precluded a child from being enrolled, as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled all residents are entitled to public education regardless of legal status. But the document requirement, coupled with current laws about what schools have to report to police, could have resulted in some parents deciding not to enroll their children.

"The only thing this bill does is it would put fear in the families of those that may have someone in their family who's undocumented," said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. "It has nothing to do with the kids."

Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, had no better luck pushing legislation to require hospitals to call immigration authorities when patients could not produce documents proving legal presence in this country. Smith said that would save taxpayer funds by deterring illegal immigrants from seeking care.

But Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, who was a hospital auditor, said that won't happen.

"The largest percentage of uncompensated care in any hospital is from emergency services," he said. He said hospitals would still be required to provide care first and ask questions later.

And Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, said the measure placed an unnecessary burden on the hospitals. Pearce rejected that contention.

"Is it really that hard to pick up a phone and make a call?" he asked. He also took a slap at hospitals and other foes, saying they do not care about the impact of illegal immigrants "as long as they get their money."

"I don't know how much more the taxpayer can bear," he said.

The decision by senators to sideline the bills came without the help of Gov. Jan Brewer, who said she was aware of the letter from the business leaders. But the governor earlier Thursday refused to ask legislators to put a brake on the measures.

"I believe that illegal immigration is an important subject to the populace in Arizona,'' she said. "It's something that needs probably to be further addressed."

On StarNet: Find extensive coverage of immigration issues at azstarnet.com/border

Votes in favor of SB 1611, the omnibus immigration bill:

Frank Antenori, R-Tucson

Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert

Scott Bundgaard, R-Peoria*

Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City

Gail Griffin, R-Hereford

Lori Klein, R-Anthem

Al Melvin, R-Tucson

Rick Murphy, R-Glendale

Russell Pearce, R-Mesa

Don Shooter, R-Yuma

Steve Smith, R-Maricopa

*Bundgaard voted against SB 1309 which separately defines Arizona citizenship

Votes against SB 1611:

Paula Aboud, D-Tucson

Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake

Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix

Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson

Rich Crandall, R-Mesa

Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix

Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix

Linda Gray, R-Glendale

Jack Jackson Jr., D-Window Rock

Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix

Linda Lopez, D-Tucson

John McComish, R-Phoenix

Robert Meza, D-Phoenix

John Nelson, R-Litchfield Park

Steve Pierce, R-Prescott

Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale

David Schapira, D-Tempe

Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix

Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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