PHOENIX — A Senate panel approved two measures designed to make it harder for those not in this country legally to get public services.
The other, SCR 1012, would spell out what documents government workers could accept for providing public services. That measure is specifically aimed at barring state and local agencies from recognizing the ID card issued to Mexican nationals by local consulate offices.
Both proposals were approved on 4-3 party-line votes by the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Human Services. And both drew questions about whether the actual effects of either becoming law were far broader.
Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, sponsor of SB 1072, said he believes more needs to be done to ensure that those in this country illegally are not getting state-paid services. “Arizonans should come first,’’ he said. “That’s what we are paying taxes for.’’ Rainey Holloway, a spokeswoman for AHCCCS, said her agency believes the measure is not only unnecessary but also creates new problems.
She said her already verifies both the identity and legal status of all applicants. But Holloway said the real concern is the other provision of the legislation which would require state eligibility workers to file written reports to federal immigration officials of anyone found seeking benefits who is not in this country legally or face the possibility of four months in county jail and a $750 fine. “We’d have to become an arm of illegal immigration and we’re not trained to do that,’’ she said.
That provision even bothered Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler. “I’m very comfortable with denying the welfare benefit,’’ he said. “I have a little bit of a problem with them picking up the phone and essentially calling the police.’’
In the end, Huppenthal and the other Republicans on the panel voted for the bill; the Democrats, including Sen. Rebecca Rios of Apache Junction, did not. “This is obviously a bill in search of a problem that does no exist,’’ she said.
The other measure on acceptable identification is virtually identical to a bill vetoed in 2005 by Gov. Janet Napolitano. But this time the plan is to bypass the governor and put the issue directly to voters. “It’s time we let the folks decide on this,’’ said Rep. Russell
Pearce, R-Mesa. The measure, if approved, would end the practice of some cities of recognizing Mexican consular ID cards. Tucson, Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, Phoenix and Scottsdale have accepted these cards for services ranging from library cards and business licenses to utility services.
But the language of the measure is broader than that, spelling out only a limited number of documents that can be used for government services.
Jennifer Sweeney, lobbyist for the Arizona Association of Counties, questioned whether county officials could issue marriage licenses to foreign tourists who decided to wed in this country while on vacation. Pearce, however, said he believes someone with a valid foreign passport would be eligible.
And Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, said he wants to be sure that foreign tourists are not turned into criminals when stopped by police officers because they have only a driver’s license issued by their home country.