Arizona begins slowly backing away from harsh laws and harsher rhetoric

Bowing to pressure from the business community, the Arizona State Senate Thursday rejected a handful of new measures that would have cranked the heat even higher in a state already seen as being anti-immigrant.

The Senate, with a two-thirds Republican majority rejected a bill to require hospitals to notify law enforcement when people suspected of being illegal immigrants come for care. The Senate rejected another bill that would have taken a step toward denying citizenship to babies born in Arizona to undocumented parents.

AZ Gov. Jan Brewer
The business community, already reeling from substantial lost tourism and convention business said “no more” and legislators listened.

From Saturday’s New York Times:

In an abrupt change of course, Arizona lawmakers rejected new anti-immigration measures on Thursday, in what was widely seen as capitulation to pressure from business executives and an admission that the state’s tough stance had resulted in a chilling of the normally robust tourism and convention industry.

The State Senate voted down five bills that among other things sought to require hospitals to inform law enforcement officials when treating patients suspected of being in the country illegally and to prod the Supreme Court to rule against automatic citizenship for American-born children of illegal immigrants.

The Senate move was a victory for the Arizona business lobby, which on many issues is more moderate than state lawmakers. And it was a rebuke for the State Senate president, Russell Pearce, a Republican and the driving force behind tough immigration measures, including the law passed last April requiring police to question the status of anyone they stop if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be an illegal immigrant.

Opponents of the five bills said that the state’s image had been hit hard, and that it did not make sense to pass new measures while the state had already put itself so far out in front of other states and the federal government on the issue — at a cost to tourism and other industries.

“I don’t believe that anyone, including myself, foresaw the national and international reaction” to April’s bill, said Glenn Hamer, chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who said estimates of lost tourism business ranged from $15 million to $150 million. “Now we have that experience under our belts. We know these measures can cause economic damage; it’s just a matter of degree.”

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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