A Republican legislator is pushing for a state law cutting off public housing benefits for undocumented immigrants even though the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development already requires applicants to prove citizenship or legal residency.
Sen. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, the sponsor of SB 1222, said Arizona has the right to enforce its own requirement.
“We have to take back our state because our federal government is no longer the federal government, it is the national government,” he said Wednesday to fellow members of Senate Government Reform Committee. “And this bill is an assertion by the state to take back its rights.”
While HUD allows households that include legal residents and undocumented immigrants, Biggs’ bill would require public housing authorities to evict all residents from a rental unit if any resident is in the U.S. illegally.
Among other things, the bill would increase the penalty for employees, including supervisors, who fail to report undocumented immigrants receiving benefits from a Class 2 to a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The committee endorsed Biggs’ bill Wednesday on a 5-2 vote, with Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Steve Gallardo of Phoenix voting against it.
Sinema said the bill, as an effort to challenge federal authority, could lead to litigation.
“If this passes Arizona will be defending itself in court again,” Sinema said.
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars aren’t being spent to provide housing benefits to undocumented immigrants.
“It’s taking my money and giving it to someone else,” he said. “Under common law, this is called stealing.”
In 2004, Arizona voters passed an initiative requiring state and local governments to verify the identity of all applicants for certain public benefits. Biggs’ bill would list public housing among those benefits.
Anjali Abraham, a public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said the bill would place public housing employers in a Catch-22 between state and federal law.
“They are in a no-win situation and will have to choose between one law and the other,” Abraham said.