Tougher Migrant Laws in Works

Elvia Díaz, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Jan. 7

Passage of Proposition 200 is inspiring state lawmakers to pursue bills designed to crack down on illegal immigration by giving law enforcement the tools to prosecute “coyotes” and report undocumented immigrants.

Saying he is reacting to a voter mandate, Republican Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa will introduce a bill to ensure undocumented immigrants don’t receive such benefits as unemployment pay, government loans, grants, public housing and food assistance.

As one of the main backers of Proposition 200, Pearce believes legislation is necessary because of pending court battles that could permanently narrow the scope of the anti-immigration measure, approved by Arizona voters on Nov. 2. The bill will not be tied directly to Proposition 200, thereby avoiding the required three-quarters vote of both the state House and Senate to change a voter-approved initiative.

Pearce will also pursue legislation denying undocumented immigrants the chance to post bail when they commit a serious crime. Bail is now at the discretion of a judge. Another bill would allow local police officers to cooperate with immigration authorities, a practice cities like Phoenix prohibit in such cases as routine traffic stops and domestic-violence calls.

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One of Pearce’s bills would require police officers to turn over undocumented immigrants to immigration agents when they were stopped for minor offenses like traffic violations. He said that federal laws already exist allowing police officers to detain undocumented immigrants but that state and local governments have turned a blind eye to the problem, ignoring the regulations or keeping officials from carrying them out.

For instance, Phoenix has a policy prohibiting its police officers from stopping anyone just to check immigration status or to arrest a person whose only violation is related to federal immigration law.

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