Pearce bids anew to curb illegal immigrants

2011-04-07T00:00:00Z 2011-04-07T00:43:22Z Pearce bids anew to curb illegal immigrantsHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
April 07, 2011 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Unwilling to accept defeat, Senate President Russell Pearce is going to make one last bid to persuade Republican colleagues to approve new state laws aimed at illegal immigrants.

But he is scaling back the scope of his effort.

Pearce said he will not pursue the more controversial elements of the five measures that failed last month. These include a bid to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants and a proposal to require parents to provide proof the children they are enrolling in school are in this country legally.

Also gone, he said, will be a requirement for hospitals to report when people show up for treatment and cannot prove legal presence in this country.

But Pearce said there are "enforcement provisions" in his SB 1611, one of the defeated bills, he believes can be approved.

One section, for example, would require public-housing authorities to evict any family if any member is an illegal immigrant. Other provisions would make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to drive a vehicle in Arizona and restrict the ability of those not here legally to register a vehicle.

There also is another bid to deny illegal immigrants admission into any state university or community college.

Pearce wants a new vote by the end of the month.

So far, Pearce's efforts to resurrect failed immigration legislation appear to have the backing of Gov. Jan Brewer.

In a separate interview, Brewer said she knows immigration issues are "of prime interest" to many legislators. She suggests perhaps they failed because some lawmakers were distracted.

"Their main concern was to get the budget out," the governor said. "Now they've accomplished that," Brewer continued. "Hopefully I'll get to sign that and we can move forward with whatever they deem is important."

Pearce has been at the forefront of efforts to use state laws to curb illegal immigration for years. Until now, virtually everything he has proposed, either at the Legislature or on the ballot, has been approved.

That changed last month when several Senate Republicans lined up with the nine Senate Democrats to kill five separate measures Pearce had either written or supported.

Pearce said he believes colleagues who voted against the measure are mistaken. He said evidence shows laws aimed at illegal immigrants not only reduce their numbers in Arizona but also make life better for those who have a legal right to be here.

"Nobody talks about a reduction in violent crimes three times the national average," he said. "We know enforcement works."

He conceded some provisions of his omnibus bill proved too much for some to support.

Nothing in the measure requiring parents to provide proof of legal residence would have stopped a child from going to school, even without the documents. Pearce said it would provide an accurate count of how many students in Arizona schools are illegal immigrants and an indication of the cost to educate them.

Pearce said that cost information could have been used to revisit a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public schools must educate all children who live within the district, regardless of whether they are in this country legally. Pearce said lack of evidence of the public cost was one reason for the decision.

Opponents feared that, even with no bar on enrolling children, just the demand for documents might result in parents not enrolling their children, even if they are legal residents or citizens.

Pearce also said he is particularly "disappointed" lawmakers will not adopt two separate bills to allow Arizona to challenge the currently accepted interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants "birthright citizenship" to anyone born here, regardless of the legal status of the parents.

Pearce said that's based on a misunderstanding. The legislation was designed to provoke a court fight and possibly trigger a new, more restrictive, interpretation.

 

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

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