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Smith vows to push more immigration bills, despite limited success

Sen. Steve Smith said he doesn’t care how Arizona lawmakers try to stop illegal immigration, and that he supports any action taken to stop it.

“Any attention to securing our borders and fighting illegal immigration is good,” Smith said. “I’ve introduced bills to do both. I will continue to introduce bills that do both… I’m going to continue on both fronts as long as I’m here.”

But this year, the only immigration bill of his that’s had any traction is SB1104, which builds upon the border fence donation bill he authored last session.

SB1104 would allow the Joint Border Security Advisory Committee, established two years ago, to use the money in that fund to build a border fence.

Because that committee meets outside the normal legislative session, Smith has pitched the bill as a way to allow the committee to begin border fence construction when the normal appropriation process is not underway. But in fact, giving direct appropriation power to a committee is extremely rare.

Since 1979, direct appropriation power has been given to a legislative committee only twice.

Democrats have assailed the idea, saying that the proposed border fence will cost far more than what will ever be received in donations.

To date, the fund has received just under $300,000. Smith admits that the fence he wants to see erected will cost about $500,000 per mile.

Federal estimates peg the cost much higher.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said the border fence donation fund “steals” money from people who want to help secure the border, because the amount of money needed is so much greater than what has been collected into the donation fund so far. Campbell said Smith is giving “false hope” to those who want a border security solution.

And because of the disparity between what’s been collected and what the fence would cost, Democrats say there will never be any fence built using the funds, and that the money could be spent on other projects, as long as the advisory committee can connect them to border security.

Smith said he believes the way his bill is written, the money could only be spent on border fence constructions, but that even if the money doesn’t go precisely toward the fence, the money would still go toward making the Arizona-Mexico border more secure.

As for the future of anti-illegal immigration legislation, Smith said he will support any crackdown on those who are in the country illegally, whether it’s internal or border enforcement.

Besides the border-fence funding bill, Smith introduced two other anti- illegal immigration measures this session.

The bills, whose similar versions were defeated last year, would have required schools to track and report the statistics on illegal immigrant children to the Legislature. The other would have required hospitals to report a persons’ legal status if they could not show proof of insurance.

Neither of those bills was given a committee hearing.

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