Ariz. Senate rejects illegal immigration bills
Friday, March 18, 2011; 4:32 AM
PHOENIX -- Arizona legislators took a timeout from illegal immigration with the Senate easily defeating five related bills, reflecting little appetite for an issue that made the state the focus of national debate and protest last year.
Majority Republicans were split Thursday 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.
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.
But business leaders have been urging lawmakers to put the issue aside to avoid damaging the still-ailing economy.
The 2010 law known as SB1070 resulted in protests, boycotts and legal challenges. A federal judge has put key provisions on hold.
"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.
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.