Although he calls it a mere “clean-up bill,” Senate President Russell Pearce is pushing legislation to tighten immigration laws by denying illegal immigrants access to public benefits, from operating or titling vehicles to enrolling in community colleges.
Pearce, author of 2010’s landmark immigration law known as SB1070, introduced SB1611 on Feb. 21, an “omnibus” immigration bill whose aim, he said, is “making sure that our laws that are on the books are enforced.”
But critics will likely argue that the bill contravenes federal law and usurps federal authority over immigration matters. Those critics probably will challenge SB1611’s constitutionality, assuming it survives the session.
The bill, which was introduced late, limits documents that can be used for enrolling a child in a K-12 school to about a dozen items, including birth certificates and passports. Currently, the law says that those who are enrolling children must show a birth certificate or “other reliable proof” of identity and age, which may include a baptismal certificate.
The bill doesn’t say a child who cannot show proof of legal presence is denied enrollment.
Meanwhile, state laws already require a list of documents to prove lawful status in order to access public benefits — but only to “extent permitted by federal law.” SB1611 would delete this limiting clause, a move that critics have said would leave an Arizona list that is far more restrictive than the federal list.
Under the bill, a public employee’s failure to report violations of federal immigration laws would be a Class 1 misdemeanor. The existing law makes such a failure a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Also under the legislation, a person convicted of an aggravated taking of someone else’s identity in order to obtain employment faces 180 days in jail.
In addition, the bill would make it unlawful for illegal immigrants to drive in the state. If caught and convicted, the undocumented resident faces at least a month in jail and the forfeiture of the vehicle.
Another likely hot-button issue is the bill’s provision to deny admission to students in community colleges, unless they can show proof of legal presence here.