As Colorado’s own Legislature seems to be backing off from a number of harsh immigration measures, the Legislature of Arizona seems to be turning up the heat.
Arizona is currently considering a package of bills that would make it illegal for undocumented persons to drive in the state or to attend school. Bills have also been introduced to require hospitals to require proof of legal status before rendering care and to require that birth certificate issued to infants born to undocumented parents note that the State of Arizona does not consider that new-born person to be a U.S. citizen.
Arizona lawmakers are proposing a sweeping package of immigration restrictions that might make the controversial measures the state approved last year, which the Obama administration went to court to block, look mild.
State Senator Russell Pearce, Republican of Arizona, said, “If you are ever going to stop this invasion, and it is an invasion, you have to quit rewarding people for breaking those laws.”
Illegal immigrants would be barred from driving in the state, enrolling in school or receiving most public benefits. Their children would receive special birth certificates that would make clear that the state does not consider them Arizona citizens.
Some of the bills, like those restricting immigrants’ access to schooling and right to state citizenship, flout current federal law and are being put forward to draw legal challenges in hopes that the Supreme Court might rule in the state’s favor.
Opponents said the changes were a drastic rewriting of the core values of the country. In Tucson, a community group was so enraged by what it called the extremist nature of the proposals from Phoenix that it proposed severing the state in two, creating what some call Baja Arizona.
“Denying citizenship to children because they have parents without documents is crazy,” said the Rev. Javier Perez, a Roman Catholic priest and immigrant from Mexico who waited in the legislative chamber into the night Tuesday for a chance to speak. “Honestly, I don’t think anything I say will change their minds, but it’s immoral what they’re doing and we have to say this is against the values of America.”
The measures would compel school officials to ask for proof of citizenship for students and require hospitals to similarly ask for papers for those receiving non-emergency care. Illegal immigrants would be blocked from obtaining any state licenses, including those for marriage. Landlords would be forced to evict the entire family from public housing if one illegal immigrant were found living in a unit. Illegal immigrants found driving would face 30 days in jail and forfeit the vehicle to the state.
While Arizona seems to be begging for the Supreme Court to get involved, Colorado lawmakers have said they really don’t need to burden the state with that expense right now.