Jacques Billeaud, AP, May 25, 2006
PHOENIX — The Legislature approved a bill Thursday that would criminalize the presence of illegal immigrants in Arizona and provide $160 million to help authorities in the nation’s busiest illicit entry point with their immigration crackdown.
The legislation also would set fines for businesses that continue to employ illegal immigrants after receiving warnings, require local police agencies to train officers in enforcing immigration law and deny education benefits to immigrants.
The bill, which was approved 33-22 by the House and 16-9 by the Senate, now goes to Gov. Janet Napolitano. Spokeswoman Jeanine L’Ecuyer declined to say whether the governor would sign it, but lawmakers on both sides of the debate predicted a veto.
Republican Rep. Russell Pearce, the driving force behind the proposal, said the state needs to confront those woes immediately. He rejected calls from opponents to wait as Congress considers a massive immigration overhaul.
The plan would resurrect a proposal to criminalize the presence of illegal immigrants by expanding the state’s trespassing law to let local authorities arrest those who sneak into the country.
Among other things, the bill would provide $54 million for communities for arresting and detaining illegal immigrants and nearly $29 million for border efforts by state police.
About $50 million, to be distributed over two years, would go toward radars to help spot illegal border-crossers. Authorities would get another $2 million to crack down on illegal hirings.
The bill would require businesses to fire employees whose Social Security numbers are invalid. Illegal immigrants frequently use forgeries to meet federal employment eligibility requirements.
It would let state prosecutors seek civil penalties as high as $5,000 and the suspension or revocation of business licenses if an employer under investigation fails to stop employing illegal immigrants.