PHOENIX ‑‑ Concluding the measures go too far, state senators on Thursday rejected a package of bills designed to crack down on illegal immigration.
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services Vote against immigration bills is a personal defeat for Senate President Russell Pearce, who either supported or introduced all of the legislation.
They also voted down measures to:
‑ require hospitals to make an effort to determine if the people they are treating are in this country 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 of anyone who cannot prove citizenship or legal residency;
‑ mandate that cities evict all residents of a public housing unit if even one occupant 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.
Voting for the package was District 25 Senator Gail Griffin. The Republican respresents Douglas and the surrounding area.
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 the boycott and hit to Arizona's economy from passage of last year's SB 1070 to give police more power to arrest illegal immigrants. They argued that new moves in this direction would throw new barriers in the path of 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 these bills leaves only one option: Take the issue to the ballot. And voters have approved every anti‑immigrant bill that has gone to the ballot since 2004.
The most vocal opposition from some Republicans came was to legislation 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 out, 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 school children to produce proof of legal presence came on different grounds.
Technically, it would not have precluded preclude 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 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 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 these 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.''