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Two anti-illegal immigration measures are back

Undeterred by major setbacks last year, a freshman legislator is once again pushing immigration bills that could lead to another showdown over how best to confront the issue.

Sen. Steve Smith, a Maricopa Republican, is proposing laws that would require school districts to count the number of students who are in the country illegally and to require hospitals to report patients who cannot prove their lawful status.

The two bills were defeated last year, when the Senate also balked at legislation that supporters hoped would get the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately discontinue the granting of automatic U.S. citizenship to children of illegal immigrants.

Last year’s measures split the Republican caucus.

The proposals likely face a tough hill to climb this year.

The composition of the Senate is largely intact, which means Smith will have to do a lot of convincing to persuade colleagues who balked at his proposals last year to change their minds.

But one key leader is missing in the Senate this year, which doesn’t help his cause.

Russell Pearce, who authored SB1070 and championed – albeit unsuccessfully – the five immigration-related measures last year, is no longer around after having lost to fellow Republican Jerry Lewis in a recall election last November.

And even Pearce, who was then Senate president, couldn’t convince the chamber he led to approve the immigration bills.

One of the two measures that Smith submitted Monday, SB1444, would require the Department of Education to collect data from school districts on the population of students who cannot prove citizenship or lawful residence in the U.S.

The legislation also requires the education department to submit a report to the governor and lawmakers about the information it has collected.

Under the bill, the report must include research into on those students’ “adverse impact,” as well as an estimate of the cost of educating them.

The proposal is popular among immigration hawks, who often argue about need for firm statistics about the cost of illegal immigration to the state.

But critics have countered that the measure would have a chilling effect on the education community, dissuading kids from going to school and ultimately creating a subclass of uneducated residents.

They also added that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that states may not deny free public education to school-age children. (The bill doesn’t say a child who cannot show proof of legal presence can’t be enrolled.)

Smith’s second anti-illegal immigration bill would require hospitals to “reasonably confirm” a patient’s legal status if he or she cannot show a valid health insurance.

The bill doesn’t preclude hospitals from providing care.

But SB1445 says a hospital admissions officer or representative must find out during the course of the treatment if the person is a citizen, a legal resident or lawfully present here.

The patient may show, among others, a military ID, driver’s license, or some valid non-immigration visa as proof of lawful status.

But if the hospital can’t verify a patient’s legal status, it must then immediately contact the local federal immigration office or a local law enforcement agency to report the incident.

Hospitals must also submit a report annually to the state health department to document compliance with the bill’s provision.

Also, the report must include the number of people who can’t show valid information and the number of times hospitals referred cases to immigration or law enforcers.

The health department must then collect the data and submit a report each year to the governor and lawmakers.

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