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Republicans advance immigration bills

A slew of immigration measures, including legislation that supporters say would get the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue of American citizenship, survived rigorous questioning on Tuesday, when senators conferred with party-mates to discuss them.
 
The battle now shifts to the Senate floor, where legislators must debate and decide whether to further advance the proposals.
 
It’s up to Senate President Russell Pearce, a champion of the measures, when to schedule those debates.
 
But while the immigration bills survived the Republican caucus, it remains unclear whether they actually have the votes to pass out of the Senate.
 
Only a handful actually spoke for or against the measures, and those who are perceived to be still deciding which way to vote mostly listened to the arguments.
 
During the meeting, Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce advised the bills’ sponsors to carefully count the votes.
 
The debate among Republicans was informative, passionate and testy, which in many ways mirrors the larger conversation Arizonans are having about how to best confront illegal immigration.
 
During the caucus, Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, highlighted what he sees as flaws in the bills, particularly the legislation dealing with birthright citizenship. His main point was that the two bills, SB1308 and SB1309, don’t actually deal with American citizenship, but with Arizona citizenship.
 
Contrary to what supporters say, the legislation won’t resolve the question of whether children born to illegal immigrations should automatically be granted American citizenship, Driggs said.  
 
“United States citizenship is where you are born,” he said, adding it doesn’t really matter whether Arizona provides a birth certificate stating someone is or is not within the country’s jurisdiction.
 
But supporters like Pearce said they’re confident that’s the question that the bills will force the U.S. Supreme Court to answer. And as an aside, they asked: In the case that’s not the question, what’s the harm of passing the legislation?
 
In response to a colleague who asked for the administrative costs of enforcing the immigration measures, Pearce said the real cost is the billions of dollars that American citizens shoulder to pay for the education, hospitalization and incarceration of illegal immigrants and their children.  
 
Pearce said the 14th Amendment, which states that everyone born in the country and subject to its jurisdiction are American citizens, was never intended to grant citizenship to children of undocumented aliens, and it has become an incentive to cross the border illegally.
 
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said that precise question has never been adjudicated by the U.S. Supreme Court. 
 
During one exchange, Driggs said a lawyer that helped draft the legislation is not the pre-eminent scholar in the area of American citizenship some claim he is and noted that the school he taught at wasn’t renowned.
 
Gould interjected, “It is inappropriate to make ad hominem attack.”
 
The immigration bills — SB1611, the omnibus immigration bill, along with the birthright citizenship bills — represent but the latest in a dogged effort by lawmakers for Arizona to enact and enforce immigration laws.? ?Backers argue that state-level action is necessary because the federal government has failed to solve illegal immigration, a complex and emotional issue.? ?But critics say Arizona already has the most stringent laws confronting illegal immigration in the country, and it is time for the state to focus on more pressing issues, like solving a historic budget shortfall and aiding a very wobbly economy. ? ?Critics also argue the proper venue to tackle illegal immigration is Congress, and state statutes are preempted by federal laws.

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