As the Arizona Legislature inches closer to passing Sen. Russell Pearce’s immigration bill, some lawmakers want a couple more changes before it receives final approval.
The bill, S1070, has already gone through several amendments, including a strike-everything amendment that retooled parts of the bill on March 31. It’s now headed for a final vote on the Senate floor that could take place as early as tomorrow (April 15).
Rep. Russ Jones, Republican from Yuma, led last-minute negotiations over two parts of Pearce’s bill as it headed to the House floor for a vote April 13. Jones had an amendment ready for the bill, but instead reached an agreement with Sen. Pearce that he would have his concerns addressed in a separate bill altogether.
Jones said he wanted two changes. First, he wanted the part of the bill banning “policies or practices” of any municipality restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws amended to remove the words “or practices,” and second that the punitive costs to cities needed to be reduced. This, Jones said, would help narrow the chance that cities would be sued over the bill’s provisions and would keep costs down if those suits are brought to bear.
Jones said he expects to see the agreement held up by Sen. Pearce before the Senate gives a final stamp of approval to S1070. Because S1070 has already passed the House, Jones wants the changes to be addressed in a different bill, although he wouldn’t say exactly how he expected that to occur.
“I know I had the votes to get my amendment, but I was assured by Sen. Pearce that he’ll find an appropriate vehicle to amend with those provisions,” Jones said.
Pearce couldn’t be reached for comment. But he has maintained that the bill will be passed and signed into law the way it’s now written, despite several adjustments lawmakers have demanded.
Jones said he still thinks S1070 will create problems, particularly for small towns trying to comply with it, and because no measures for success have been offered by its supporters.
“How much safer will we be in five years? What will be the benchmarks that we’re going to use? No one has suggested any hard numbers for that,” Jones said. “There’s much in there that’s questionable.”
Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican from Fountain Hills, explained his support of the bill by saying that illegal immigration must be fought on three fronts: Border security must be increased, jobs and benefits must not be available, and internal enforcement must be ratcheted up.
Kavanagh called S1070 a major achievement in internal enforcement and said the obvious benchmark for success will be the number of illegal immigrants apprehended.
“It’s very easy to measure the number of arrests of illegals,” Kavanagh said, “but it’s much harder to measure the deterrent effect this law will have.”
Kavanagh, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill might require additional government spending on public safety and corrections. But he said the bill’s benefits will outweigh the costs because it will reduce crime and allow the state to save money by spending less on social services for illegal immigrants.
The opposition to the bill ranged in nature from worry about litigation brought against cities perceived as not complying with the bill, to claims that S1070 doesn’t address the root problems that cause illegal immigration.
Rep. Tom Chabin, a Democrat from Flagstaff, urged House members to vote against the bill and instead consider comprehensive immigration reform.
“Instead of facing up to our responsibility and creating a guest-worker program, we have this bill,” Chabin said. “It terrorizes the people we profit from.”