Lawmakers try to add restrictions for illegal immigrants
Associated Press
Mar. 24, 2005

Already barred from certain government benefits, illegal immigrants in Arizona could face more restrictions because of a proposal meant to discourage people from sneaking into the country.

The proposal at the Arizona Legislature would prohibit illegal immigrants from attending state colleges and adult education classes.

It would bar illegal immigrants from receiving utility and child care assistance, college tuition waivers and financial aid that's subsidized by state money. It also would keep them from having in-state status at Arizona's public colleges, a classification that results in lower tuition.

The measure builds on Proposition 200, a voter-approved law that denies some welfare benefits to illegal immigrants. The law's easy victory in November is a source of encouragement for advocates for limiting immigration.

The latest proposal was softened earlier this month when lawmakers removed language that would have prevented illegal immigrants from adopting children and receiving state housing assistance. They also nixed a requirement for citizenship checks on parents before they enroll their children in primary and secondary schools.

The less restrictive proposal was approved in an 33-26 vote Thursday by the state House and now moves to the Senate.

Proponents said the restrictions are needed because the state shoulders huge health care and education costs for migrants and their families.

Opponents questioned whether the changes would reduce illegal immigration in Arizona, the busiest illegal entry point on the nation's southern border.

More than any other state in recent years, Arizona has been dogged by a heavy flow of illegal immigrants after the government tightened enforcement in El Paso, Texas, and San Diego during the mid-1990s.

People on both sides of the debate say the federal government hasn't done enough to fulfill its responsibility to enforce immigration laws.

Arizona lawmakers frustrated over the nation's failed immigration policies have proposed several bills this year to confront illegal immigration.

"The people in the state of Arizona should not in fact have to pay, in those specific areas, for folks that are here illegally," said Republican Rep. Tom Boone of Glendale, sponsor of the proposal.

Opponents of the latest proposal said it's doesn't make sense to deny adult education classes to immigrants who are trying to learn English and want to contribute to the economy.

Democratic Rep. Pete Rios of Hayden, an opponent of the measure, said the proposal would open up Hispanics, Native Americans and other minorities who are legal citizens to tough questioning from the government simply because they might look as if they come from another country.

"We are the ones that are going to suffer the brunt of this legislation," Rios said.

Both sides disagree on whether the courts would uphold the proposal if it becomes law.

"We are here to push the envelope of what is proper through good legislation, and this is good legislation," said Republican Rep. John Allen of Scottsdale, a supporter of the bill (HB2030). "And we should not fear the courts."

Lawmakers had gutted an earlier provision that, like Proposition 200, would have made it a crime if public employees failed to report an illegal immigrant seeking benefits and would have let Arizonans file lawsuits to remedy any violations.

While Proposition 200 denied some government services to immigrants, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard concluded the law's effect on public benefits applies only to a limited number of welfare programs.