Arizona Bill Would Criminalize the Presence of Undocumented Immigrants in the State

By Valeria Fernández, FI2W contributor

PHOENIX, Arizona — Undocumented immigrants in Arizona could face jail terms for simply being in the state under a series of bills gathering momentum in the state legislature.

Sen. Pearce, author of the bill

Sen. Pearce, author of the SB 1175 bill

A bill approved Wednesday by a Senate committee (SB 1175) would allow any police officer to arrest an undocumented immigrant under charges of trespassing on state land. Those jailed would have to pay the cost of their own incarceration.

“If this bill passes, it would be the first state in the nation making illegal presence a crime,” said Alessandra Soler-Meetze, Executive Director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “The implications are tremendous. What it means is that anyone who is in this country without proper documentation is going to be charged and arrested.”

Soler-Meetze argues that the bill is unconstitutional because states don’t have the power to enforce federal immigration laws. She cited a case in 2005 in which police in New Hampshire used state law to arrest undocumented immigrants on trespassing charges. A court later dropped the cases because they conflicted with federal law.

The Arizona bill includes a number of provisions, among them one against “sanctuary policies” that would restrict any government agency or city from limiting immigration enforcement.

The legislation is part of a package of bills being pushed by Republicans in the Arizona House and the Senate, who want to grant more powers to local law enforcement to detain, prosecute and incarcerate undocumented immigrants.

“There’s no greater threat to our community than the illegal immigration invasion,” said Republican Sen. Russell Pearce, author of SB 1175.

Pearce argues that what he calls “sanctuary policies” put handcuffs on law enforcement in efforts to fight spikes in crimes that Pearce correlates with illegal immigration. The trespassing bill would make it a misdemeanor to be in the state illegally. A person arrested twice under the law would be charged with a felony.

State Rep. Ben Miranda, a Democrat, opposes the measure. “We don’t have the public resources to be enforcing these laws, which are going to be used to intimidate people,” he said.

That was the reason given by former Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, when she vetoed a similar bill in 2006. Napolitano, now U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, said in her veto letter that this was an unfunded mandate for local law-enforcement.

Some political observers argue that this time around the bill might have a better chance since Jan Brewer, a Republican, is in the governor’s office.

The possibility has religious leaders and human right groups in the state worried.

“This is going to cause confusion in the immigrant community seeking help,” said Magdalena Schwartz, pastor of the Disciples of the Kingdom church in Mesa, AZ. “They will hide in the shadows and won’t report crimes, it would be a human tragedy.”

Schwartz believes this is an attempt by Republican legislators to deport the largest possible number of immigrants before Congress enacts federal immigration reform.

Despite historical opposition from local police departments to fulfilling the duties of the federal government, these measures are getting support from some law enforcement agencies in the state. Among them is the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), led by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, currently under investigation over allegations of racial profiling during immigration arrests.

The ACLU and others are concerned that expanding the state laws will increase the likelyhood of racial profiling by police.

During a panel hearing on Wednesday, Mark Spencer, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA), voiced support for the trespassing bill.

“We understand what the costs of illegal immigration are all about,” said Spencer, who presented a list of the names of police officers who were killed in the line of duty by undocumented immigrants.

Among those he mentioned was the case of officer Nick Erfle, who was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant with a previous criminal record in 2007.

Spencer said the bill would give more tools to police officers to detain undocumented immigrants and turn them over to immigration authorities.

Other measures currently making their way through the legislative body include a bill that would prohibit restrictions on local agencies’ enforcement of immigration laws and another that would make it a crime for day laborers to seek work on the streets.

Arizona has been at the forefront of enacting state measures aimed at controlling illegal immigration. In 2007, the state legislature passed one of the toughest employer sanctions laws in the nation for companies that knowingly hire undocumented labor.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), during the first quarter of 2009, a total of 1,040 bills and resolutions related to immigrants and refugees were introduced in all 50 state legislatures. Over the same time period twenty five states enacted 35 laws and adopted 40 resolutions.

29 comments

  1. Delaware Bob

    Senator Pearce, it’s hard to put into words how proud I am of you for standing up against this INVASION of the ILLEGAL ALIENS. I believe your bill will pass, at best, I hope it passes. Our Federal Government has left us down BIG TIME on this illegal immigration. It appears that America has become the dumping ground for all the illegal alien children. Once here, we have to school them, give them medical care and the parents (parent). Then some, like obama’s aunt, get public housing.

    Look at the crime that comes with these illegal aliens, the jailing and deportation costs, only to have half of the illegal aliens return.

    What is wrong with our Federal Government, Mr. Pearce? I’m happy to see that Mr. Metcalfe has a Legislators for Legal Immigration. I wish all of you could just replace the thugs that are up in Washington now.

    I wish you were here in Delaware, Mr. Pearce. We have about 50,000 illegal aliens here, and our poor excuse for Legislators will do nothing to pass a law to get rid of the illegal aliens. I have tried for three years and have been COMPLETELY ignored. How sad is that?

    I wish you the very best, Mr. Pearce. Arizona has to be very proud of you.

  2. Shawna

    I was thinking of applying for doctoral programs in Arizona but if they pass this I am taking Arizona off my list. My husband is Mexican and I won’t make him move to a state that will hate and harass him because of his skin color.

  3. In response to “Shawna”

    NO ONE said anything about “hating” anyone. What was discussed and proposed is the enforcement of existing federal and state laws related to anyone (regardless of color) who makes the personal choice to violate the laws of our nation.

    You state that your husband is a “Mexican.” Why, if he is legally in the United States, by whatever route that is provided for by our laws, including marriage to a United States Citizen….would you be concerned? On the otherhand, if he is not here legally…(makes me wonder in that case, if you too are here legally????

    You seek to threaten the people of Arizona by what….not adding to their tax burden???

    Might I remind you that the United States has given $Billions$ in aid to Mexico, and suggest that you ask your husband what Mexico does to people who illegally try to immigate to Mexico…not that I can think of very many reasons why anyone would.

  4. PaulC1958

    With all due respect Shawna, is your husband a US citizen, a legal immigrant or a Mexican citizen illegally in the US? If he is the latter, every US citizen should hate the fact that your husband chose to break our laws. If your husband is either a US citizen or a legal immigrant why on earth would efforts to rid our country of illegal aliens who come from all over the world make him feel he was hated because of the color of his skin? All Mexicans are not the same color; I have seen Mexicans of all different skin colors to include, white, black, brown, red and yellow. More importantly, nobody really cares anymore whether illegal aliens and their facilitators cry racist or hatred when US citizens push to rid our country of illegal aliens and the horrendous cost they impose on the US. All we care about is pushing our legislators to insist our laws are enforce and to make sure the American dream doesn’t become the Mexican nightmare for our children

  5. Haydee Pavia

    Editor:

    It is time for our immigration laws to be enforced, state by state.

    I live in California, ground zero and the welfare state for illegal immigration.

    According to Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, member of the State Budget Committee, it costs California’s taxpayers $10.5 Billion a year to educate, medicate and incarcerate illegal aliens. Governor Schwarzenegger admits our state deficit is $18 Billion!

    Illegal aliens are tax consumers and they don’t pay income tax. Those who do, report such a low income that they get a return (“Invasion,” by investigative reporter Michelle Malkin).

  6. Renee

    I have never been so disgusted with the state that I live in. If this passes, I’m moving. I am a Mexican American citizen that is FOR civil and HUMAN rights. Yes, there are the few that commit crimes, but so easily this state’s government forgets the extreme, horrific crimes that always seem to be committed by non-Hispanic people. Crystal meth labs that are killing our children? Not Hispanic. Child porn, pedophiles, rapists, moms having their children steal while they are driving the getaway vehicle? Not Hispanic. Pay closer attention to the news people and see who is really committing the serious crimes. This state makes me sick. Obama and the feds, continue your investigation on Sheriff Joe. And the comment about the babies and parents getting health care? I have spent a couple of days in the DES office and the ratio of Hispanic versus non-Hispanic people was about equal. And all the Hispanic people want is basic health care and maybe food stamps. The difference? Hispanic people get off of it as SOON as they can and they work their butts off. People of ALL colors misuse the welfare system. SO don’t give me that BS that only Hispanics do that. I saw it in my office ALL the time. I have said my piece for now. Oppose this bill!

  7. Carol Broussard

    Shawna–The people of Arizona don’t hate your husband because of his skin color. What they dislike is people entering this country illegally and legal citizens of this country having to pick up the tab for them. What if millions of Americans crossed the border into Mexico illegally and demanded that the Mexican government pay for educating their children and giving them free medical care? You think that would ever happen? This is NOT a race issue. This is a matter of enforcing the laws of the State of Arizona and the United States of America. Get the chip off your shoulder.

  8. Joe

    Bob and McClendon,

    Your comments leave one wondering where you stood during the civil rights movement. I hope you realize that such strong emotions are similar to those expressed when African Americans wished for civil rights. I should remind you, that although American citizens, African Americans were not viewed or treated as such, especially in the southern US.

    Folks back then were as sure about dangers that blacks posed, just as you seem to be regarding undocumented aliens.

    We now know this reasoning was wrong then. How can you possibly know yours is correct?

  9. DaCritic

    Joe: The reasoning was wrong then? It was never wrong to begin with and it is still true today. You got brainwashed whites/liberals into submitting their country away to third world slime like Mexico and all of Central/South American and Cuba even..hell, make Puerto Rico a sovreign nation as well.

    Bills like this are long overdue, you got liberals committing treason against their own country left and right day after day. Biggest traitors of all are below:

    “Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (Hart-Celler Act, INS Act of 1965, Pub.L. 89-236) abolished the national-origin quotas that had been in place in the United States since the Immigration Act of 1924. It was proposed by Emanuel Celler, co-sponsored by Philip Hart and heavily supported by United States Senator Ted Kennedy.”

    These three people along with the rest of the Democrats and President Lyndon B. Johnson signing it into law are the ones who sold this country out.

    “During debate on the Senate floor, Kennedy, speaking of the effects of the act, said, “First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same…. Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset…. Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and deprived nations of Africa and Asia…. In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think…. The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.”[2] The act’s supporters not only claimed the law would not change America’s ethnic makeup, but that such a change was not desirable.

    By equalizing immigration policies, the Act resulted in a flood of new immigration from non-European nations that changed the ethnic make-up of the United States.[3] Immigration doubled between 1965 and 1970 and doubled again between 1970 and 1990.”

    This is where they’re all rolling in their graves. Such a change was NOT desirable yet we have traitors left and right wanting to make this a complete third world country.

    The brainwashed sheeple go to the slaughter by being guilt ridden to vote in someone not of their race and who pretends he’s smart and needs a teleprompter where he goes on top of not even being a citizen of this country…rather a citizen of Kenya. He is NOT our president for this reason alone among many others.

    Nonetheless, this immigration act needs to be appealed along with abusing the 14th amendment to where no anchor babies are automatic citizens.

    We need to repeal the immigration act of 1965 and revert back to the Immigration Act of 1924. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Origins_Act

    This nation was strong when it was a white nation, the sooner you got minorities claiming this and that against whites knowing the government backs them up, they’re only asking for a civil/racial war to break out. Glad Arizona atleast has some common sense where the government would rather see white people wiped out.

  10. justy

    “This is going to cause confusion in the immigrant community seeking help,” said Magdalena Schwartz, pastor of the Disciples of the Kingdom church in Mesa, AZ. “They will hide in the shadows and won’t report crimes, it would be a human tragedy.”

    This old argument is so ridiculous. If the “immigrants” weren’t here illegally, they wouldn’t have to hide in the shadows and there wouldn’t be any fear of reporting crimes.

    Thank you, Senator Pearce for SB ll75. Once it’s passed the illegal aliens will no longer have to live in the shadows – they will be able to come out into the sunlight…in Mexico or whatever country they will be deported back to. There they can get in line to enter the U.S legally and once they do this they can live in the United States in the sunlight just like everyone else that is here LEGALLY.

  11. Donald

    I wish Ca, IL,TX,NY and Fl would would initiate similar legislation like SB 1175 to rid their states of the illegal alien scourge. Kudos to the AZ legislature and Russell Pearce in particular for having the courage to lead the state and nation in making this state as inhospitable for illegal immigrants as is legally possible. Find em’, jail em’, deport em’.

  12. Susan

    Renee, your illegal alien buddies are committing more crimes than you might realize: ID theft, document fraud, Social Security fraud, conspiracy to violate immigration laws, income tax evasion, employment fraud, food stamp fraud, welfare fraud, driving drunk, driving without a license, and driving without insurance to name a few. Your illegal alien buddies also commit their share of more serious crimes such as murder, rape, and child molesting.

  13. June

    Thank you Sen. Pearce. How about coming to Texas and showing the sanctuary city of Austin how it’s done? Gov. Perry has suddenly “got religion” and wants to crack down on illegal immigration, but only because it’s campaign time again. As far as the ridiculous reason that is given for sanctuaries, i.e., “illegals will feel safer reporting crimes to police,” is a fallacious argument. They come from countries where the police ARE the criminals. They are not about to call the police. Therefore this type of protection only leaves law-abiding citizens open to the many crimes committed by illegals. Renee, every day there are accounts of child rape by illegals and death by drunk drivers who are illegal. Yes, we have Americans committing crimes too,and we have to deal with that, but illegal crime would not happen if they were home where they belong. No one is entitled to come here just because they are poor. I grew up in the depression and I don’t think anyone broke into their neighbor’s home because they were poor. Our country is our home and those who disregard our immigration laws, no matter where they come from, are not welcome. Every country has the choice of who comes in.

    For those thinking of breaking in, how about marching and demanding economic justice in your own country?

  14. Jimi

    Even if passed, it will just be another toothless law to be ignored. “May arrest” is their loophole. It’s just being done to placate the illegal alien protests while still allowing “business as usual”.

    Face it folks, the laws and system is exactly where the C of C, ethnic centerist organizations and the government want it. It’s their Trifecta.

    Any “change” will be cosmetic at best.

    In 10 years we will still be discussing this issue while the illegal alien population continues to grow.

    I know as I posted this 10 years ago and it became 100% true.

  15. CJ

    Shawna and Renee, as my husband is also a “Mexican” (really American but family all comes from Mexico and his mom has 8 sisters most who still live in Mexico)I can say that there is no hate, an no civil or human rights issues in wanting America to enforce it’s Federal immigration laws. What you need to know that is in the Country of Mexico they have one of the strictest immigrations laws of any country in the world. Here are just a few of the rules:

    1. There will be no special bilingual programs in the schools, no special ballots for elections, and all government business will be conducted in our language.

    2. Foreigners will NOT have the right to vote, no matter how long they are here.

    3. Foreigners will NEVER be able to hold political office.

    4. Foreigners will not be a burden to the taxpayers. No welfare, no food stamps, no health care, nor any other government assistance programs.

    5. Foreigners can invest in this country, but it must be an amount equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage.

    6. If foreigners do come and want to buy land that will be okay, BUT options will be restricted. You are not allowed to own waterfront property. That property is reserved for citizens naturally born into this country.

    7. Foreigners may not protest; no demonstrations, no waving a foreign flag, no political organizing, no “bad-mouthing” our president or his policies. If you do you will be sent home.

    8. If you do come to this country illegally, you will be hunted down and sent straight to jail.

    I have actually been with my husband in Mexico visting family when we got a flat tire. My husband had to pay off the police (they are all corrupt) so we would not be carted off to jail. The police view all Americans as being “rich” and so in this instance they said we couldn’t be on the side of the road, it was a fine for big $$$ or jail if we could not pay. (they make the laws up as they go over there) and so we paid. It is not the first time my husband has “paid” the “payola” due to car trouble. He went down once with some cousins and he had to pay $500 USD to keep the 3 of them out of jail when the engine in the truck they were driving blew up. That time the police said they were causing polution. Luckily he does have family there that picked him and his cousins up and brought them back to America safely. Don’t be so quick to judge America. Finally, 26 Billion with a B – is sent back to Mexico, tax free by the jobs illegals take from Americans. Just think if that 26 Billion was going into the homes of American citizens. Also you are paying big time for illegals, here is the list of what CA pays for illegals:

    Illegal Immigration Costs California Over Ten Billion Annually

    State’s “cheap labor” costs average household $1,183 a year

    By Robert Longley

    In hosting America’s largest population of illegal immigrants, California bears a huge cost to provide basic human services for this fast growing, low-income segment of its population. A new study from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) examines the costs of education, health care and incarceration of illegal aliens, and concludes that the costs to Californians is $10.5 billion per year.

    Among the key finding of the report are that the state’s already struggling K-12 education system spends approximately $7.7 billion a year to school the children of illegal aliens who now constitute 15 percent of the student body. Another $1.4 billion of the taxpayers’ money goes toward providing health care to illegal aliens and their families, the same amount that is spent incarcerating illegal aliens criminals.

    “California’s addiction to ‘cheap’ illegal alien labor is bankrupting the state and posing enormous burdens on the state’s shrinking middle class tax base,” stated Dan Stein, President of FAIR. “Most Californians, who have seen their taxes increase while public services deteriorate, already know the impact that mass illegal immigration is having on their communities, but even they may be shocked when they learn just how much of a drain illegal immigration has become.”

    The Costs of Illegal Immigration to Californians focuses on three specific program areas because those were the costs examined by researchers from the Urban Institute in 1994. Looking at the costs of education, health care and incarceration for illegal aliens in 1994, the Urban Institute estimated that California was subsidizing illegal immigrants to the tune of about $1.1 billion. The enormous rise in the costs of illegal immigrants over the intervening ten years is due to the rapid growth in illegal residents. It is reasonable to expect those costs to continue to soar if action is not taken to turn the tide.

    “Nineteen ninety-four was the same year that California voters rebelled and overwhelmingly passed Proposition 187, which sought to limit liability for mass illegal immigration. Since then, state and local governments have blatantly ignored the wishes of the voters and continued to shell out publicly financed benefits on illegal aliens,” said Stein. “Predictably, the costs of illegal immigration have grown geometrically, while the state has spiraled into a fiscal crisis that has brought it near bankruptcy.

    “Nothing could more starkly illustrate the very high costs of ‘cheap labor’ than California’s current situation,” continued Stein. “A small number of powerful interests in the state reap the benefits, while the average native-born family in California gets handed a nearly $1,200 a year bill.”

    The Federation for American Immigration Reform is a nonprofit, public-interest, membership organization advocating immigration policy reforms that would tighten border security and prevent illegal immigration, while reducing legal immigration levels from about 1.1 million persons per year to 300,000 per year.

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/immigrationnaturalizatio/a/caillegals.htm

  16. greg

    is this all true. if so does it set a president??

    What did Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower have in common?

    Here is something that should be of great interest for you to pass around.

    I didn’t know of this until it was pointed out to me.

    Back during The Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover ordered the deportation of ALL Illegal Aliens in order to make jobs available to American citizens that desperately needed work.

    Harry Truman deported over two million illegal’s after WWll to create jobs for returning veterans.

    And then again in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower deported 13 million Mexican Nationals! The program was called “Operation Wetback”. It was done so WWll and Korean Veterans would have a better chance at jobs. It took 2 years, but they deported them !

    Now…. if they could deport the illegal’s back then – they

    could sure do it today?

    If you have doubts about the veracity of this information,

    enter Operation Wetback into your favorite search engine

    and confirm it for yourself.

    Reminder: Don’t forget to pay your taxes……….

    12 million Illegal Aliens are depending on you ! ! ! !

  17. Bobby

    Just look closely at this stuff across the nation, not just Arizona. The administration is literally enabling illegal immigration, while the various states citizens, have to struggle for jobs, while at the same time try and fight illegal immigration in their own states. California is broke, and Governor Jackass Arnold is threatening to shut down all services for students, citizens in need–everyone in fact, EXCEPT ILLEGALA ALIENS WHO DRAIN THE STATE OF BILLIONS. There are traitors involved here, whatever state you live in you had better identify the traitors in your state, or YOU WILL, end up like California. This is a full scale invasion from a foreign nation, Mexico, and most Americans are picking their noses instead of telling their Reps. stop this or we will fire you. You will be looking for a job at McDonalds.etc.

  18. stephanie

    i am a mexican american and i am proud of this new bill. i am tired of the bad image that the illegals give mexicans overall. i am tired of looking at a mexican family and assuming they are here illegally and dont speak a lick of english. i am tired of my taxes going towards their eight children while they drive a truck that i wouldnt be able to afford in years. this is another step in the legal way, the right way, and the only way.

  19. Carol

    I wish the cowards in Austin would take a close look at this! We have a real problem, not only in the border States, but in our nation. Illegals are draining our resources across the board. If everyone wants

    “fair”, let’s just adopt Mexico’s immigration policies ~ they also just shoot folks caught coming across their Southern borders. I love the Mexican culture and people,they are, generally, a warm and loving people. But I love the US and our sovereignty, and that is being threatened by the floods of people who do not respect our laws.

  20. Anonymous

    What a great idea! I hope many states do pass such a law, including my own.

    Send the illegal Irish home first, I don’t care. It’s not about race or ethnicity — it’s about CRIMINALS.

  21. Bob Boberson

    I’m moving to Arizona in September, and this is a welcome sight. It sounds like Arizona, unlike California where I currently live, blatantly dislike illegals and is doing something about it. Finally! They are like insects in my opinion, and even in the respect that I would crush them with my shoe if I saw one small enough. They drain our country, our people. OUR people. They do not belong here. Now if you want to come here legally, pay taxes, learn english etc. then go ahead. But wait like the rest of us. We work our butts off to make a living and even find jobs, and you come over here and take our jobs and ruin our economy. Arizona is fortunatly only for about 5 years. Then I’m getting as far away from Mexico as possible.

  22. Tami

    In Mexico, no forgeiner are allow to work there. For one thing in U.S. we are allow to sue companies who hire illegal mexicans..Companies discrimination an American Citizen base on Nation and pay. Illegal Mexican gets paid by cash while citizen gets paid by paycheck. (Against the law).

    I don’t tip restaurant or do business with business who hire illegal mexicans. I suggest you all take picture of bunch of smiling illegal mexicans at their jobs…and pictures of homeless American citizen begs for money, foods, job only if you want to keep U.S from collasping. (Homeless citizen jump to 78%) Invasion of Illegal Mexican start abt 4 or 5 years ago. Spainsh language are everywhere. (Our country should be English only Nation.) Take a look around….U.S. is collaping due to Mexican invasion. Russia is right about how our country will divide in 3. Don’t forget couple of years ago…Mexican flag rise above U.S. flag on American soil! Silent Invaison. I support Coalition against Illegal Immirgante.

    P.S. If illegal Mexican can get in then terrorist like Bin Laden can.

  23. Pingback: Anti-Immigrant Bills Fail in Arizona « Feet In 2 Worlds, Immigration News

  24. Dave Greenman

    Finally a state with COURAGE! It is about time people stood up to the ACLU (American Criminal Liberties Union) once and for all. Enough is enough! Americans need to fight the degrading and destruction of our HERITAGE, TRADITIONS, and RIGHTS. We are not an open door to the entire world. We are NOT multi-cultural and can never be. We are an AMERICAN culture. Come here legally and leave your past culture at the border. We welcome everyone (in a controlled rate) who wants to become an American, acclimate and assimilate. Not those who want to change our nation to reflect their prior homelands. Get it! You come here to work hard, be self reliant through self-sustenance not a ward of the government through tax money handouts.

    The ACLU was founded by anti-American leftists like the ones we have in the White House and Congress including some on and interested in the Supreme Court. Let’s restore America, our Freedoms, Rights, and Prosperity given to us by GOD! Not obama and the democrats who have orgasmic pleasure by controlling populations and stealing their wealth.

    Big Dave

  25. Dave Greenman

    UPDATE!!! Arizona may crack down further on illegals

    Jacques Billeaud, Associated Press

    Monday, June 22, 2009

    (06-22) 04:00 PDT Phoenix —

    As America’s busiest immigrant smuggling hub, Arizona has earned the distinction as a place that’s tough on people who sneak across the border.

    That reputation would harden if the Legislature and governor approve a proposal that would draw local authorities deeper into immigration enforcement and further reject the notion that immigration is the sole responsibility of the federal government.

    THe PROPOSAL, WHICH HAS CLEARED THE STATE SENATE and is being considered by the House, would require police to try to determine people’s immigration status when they have reasonable suspicions that a person doesn’t have legal status.

    And, if approved, Arizona would become the only state to criminalize the presence of illegal immigrants through an expansion of its trespassing law.

    While the practical effect of such a law is yet unclear, immigrant rights advocates predict it would lead to racial profiling that would target thousands of Latinos who are U.S. citizens.

    And the proposal’s constitutionality is also a source of contention. A few years ago, police chiefs in two communities in New Hampshire charged illegal immigrants with trespassing for being in the state. A local judge in 2005 dismissed the charges as an unconstitutional attempt to apply state laws to a federal issue.

    But supporters of the proposal say that on top of inadequate federal border efforts, many local police departments have turned a blind eye to illegal immigrants.

    Some local politicians “don’t have the courage to stand up for their citizens,” said Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce of Mesa, the bill’s sponsor.

    The proposed trespassing provision is similar to proposals vetoed in 2006 by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, who said she opposed turning all immigrants who sneaked into the state into criminals.

    Republican Jan Brewer, former secretary of state for Arizona, became governor in January upon the resignation of Napolitano, who quit to head the Homeland Security Department in the Obama administration.

    Under this year’s proposed trespassing provision, a first offense would be a top-tier misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. Subsequent violations would be a felony that could carry a penalty of up to 2 1/2 years in prison.

    Gos Bless America

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