Push for more migrant laws dropped

Pearce says other bills now taking priority as session near ends
2011-04-12T00:00:00Z Push for more migrant laws droppedHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
April 12, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Saying time has run out to put together a deal, the chief proponent of broad new laws aimed at illegal immigrants is giving up, at least for this year.

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

But that did not happen 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 said. Pearce said trying to line up the votes, even for a stripped-down version of the package, would be too disruptive.

He said the decision had nothing to do with Monday's ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that SB 1070, last year's comprehensive measure that he also crafted, is likely pre-empted by federal law.

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

Pearce said he believes he can secure support for at least parts of the package next session when budget cutting will be less of an issue.

He also said there are some small changes in the law he still intends to pursue this year that were not part of a larger package that was rejected previously.

That includes SB 1222, which already has cleared the Senate, requiring anyone seeking public housing to prove legal presence in the country and families to be evicted if even one member of the household is an illegal immigrant. The bill awaits House debate.

The broader changes Pearce may revisit next year include:

• A state challenge to provisions of the U.S. Constitution that presume that anyone born in this country is a citizen, regardless of the legal status of the parents.

• A new requirement for public schools to ask parents to provide documents proving the children they are enrolling are here legally.

• Making 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.

• A ban on illegal immigrants' attending state universities and community colleges, even if they pay the same tuition as out-of-state residents.

State lawmakers also gave final approval Monday to legislation intended to help two Southern Arizona ranchers escape paying at least part of what courts said they owe to illegal immigrants they were found guilty of harming.

HB 2191 would prohibit people in this country illegally from collecting punitive damages even if they win a lawsuit. The bill now goes to Gov. Jan Brewer.

In 2006, Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment that already makes that the law. But this measure makes it retroactive to the beginning of 2004 to help those whose legal problems began before the state constitution was changed.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, an attorney, questioned the legality of lawmakers, not voters, extending the effective date of the law.

Beneficiaries are Roger Barnett who was sued following a 2004 incident when 16 illegal immigrants said the rancher illegally imprisoned them, and Casey Nethercott. A jury awarded four of the plaintiffs $60,000 in punitive damages against Barnett. Nethercott was assessed a $500,000 penalty when he failed to respond to a suit by two illegal immigrants.

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

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