Arizona bills targeting illegal immigrants founder - East Valley Tribune: Immigration

Arizona bills targeting illegal immigrants founder

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Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 9:15 pm

Saying time has run out to craft a deal, the chief proponents of broad new laws aimed at illegal immigrants are giving up, at least for this year.

Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said Monday he had promised colleagues not to push the anti-immigrant measures until a budget was approved.

But that did not occur until April 1. And Pearce said there is now a push to wrap up the session in the next two weeks with dozens of items still awaiting action.

``I'm trying to exercise a little leadership in getting important bills out,'' he told Capitol Media Service. Pearce said trying to line up the votes, even for a stripped-down version of the package, would be too disruptive.

Pearce also said the decision not to pursue new legislation had nothing to do with Monday's ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals saying that last year's comprehensive measure, which he also crafted,  is likely preempted by federal law.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said it was even simpler than that. He said there was no way to get sufficient Republican votes for any major changes in immigration laws before lawmakers are scheduled to go home.

Pearce said, though, he believes he can cobble together support for at least parts of the package next session. And he said the budget won't be an issue next year, as there will no longer be any need to cut $1 billion in spending.

He also said there are some small changes in the law he still intends to pursue this year, changes which were not part of the five-bill package that died in the Senate last month when several GOP senators sided with Democrats in questioning the legality of the provisions.

That includes SB 1222, which already has cleared the Senate, which would require anyone seeking public housing to prove legal presence in the country. The bill, which awaits House debate, also requires public housing authorities to evict families if even one member of the household is an illegal immigrant.

But the broader changes Pearce and others sought are dead for this year. That includes a plan to have the state challenge interpretations of the U.S. Constitution which presume that anyone born in this country is a citizen, regardless of the legal status of the parents.

Pearce also could not get sufficient support from his own caucus for a new requirement for public schools to ask parents to provide documents proving the children they are enrolling are here legally. While youngsters would not be barred from going to school -- a U.S. Supreme Court decision says legal presence cannot be considered -- it might have deterred some parents from signing up their children in the first place.

Pearce said, though, he thinks there will be the votes next year to make it a state crime for an illegal immigrant to operate a motor vehicle in Arizona, as well as one to prohibit those not here legally from registering their vehicles in the state.

``It's illegal to be here,'' he said. ``That's tantamount to giving them a pass to run around the country.''

He also hopes to get support next year for a ban on illegal immigrants attending state universities and community colleges, even if they pay the same tuition as out-of-state residents.

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