Ariz. Senate rejects illegal immigration bills
Thursday, March 17, 2011; 11:21 PM
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Senate soundly defeated five bills aimed at illegal immigration on Thursday in a marked departure from last year, when enactment of a tough local enforcement measure put the state at the heart of a fierce national debate over the issue.
Majority Republicans were split in their votes on the defeated bills, which included two measures intended to force a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against automatic citizenship for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. The other three dealt with health care, public services and everyday activities such as driving.
With business leaders urging lawmakers to put the issue aside to avoid damaging the still-ailing economy, "it's time for us to take a timeout," said Republican Sen. John McComish of Phoenix. "It's something that the people don't want us to be focusing on."
Critics also said the bills rejected Thursday were over-reaching and flawed.
Supporters of the measures voiced frustration and said there could be political fallout for lawmakers who voted against them.
"The lack of political courage" is the only impediment to step up pressure on illegal immigration, said Republican Sen. Russell Pearce, the sponsor of the 2010 law.
The two bills on citizenship were defeated on votes of 12-18 and 11-19 as majority Republicans split on the issue. The chamber's nine Democrats voted against all of the bills.
"I'm hopeful that now we can move on and focus on the business of the state," Democratic Minority Leader David Schapira of Tempe said after the three-hour floor session.
One of the rejected bills would have required hospitals to contact federal immigration officials or local law enforcement if people being treated lack insurance and can't demonstrate legal status.
Critics said that would burden hospitals, but Republican Sen. Steve Smith of Maricopa said his bill didn't require much.
"Maybe you forgot it's illegal to be in this country illegally," he said during the vote on his bill. "We just ask them to report the crime, not be the judge and executioner."
Also defeated was a bill to require schools to file reports on enrollments of illegal immigrant students.