Measure lets judges lock up some entrants
Jan. 28, 2005
By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX - Judges could deny bail to at least some illegal entrants charged with other crimes, under a measure approved Thursday by a House committee.
The measure says a judge can keep an illegal entrant locked up if there is evidence the person might flee or poses a danger to someone else or to the community. The 6-3 vote by the House Judiciary Committee came over objections from foes who said it is both discriminatory and unnecessary.
Thursday's action sends the legislation to the full House and, eventually, to the Senate.
It is Arizona voters, though, who will get the last word, as the change requires an amendment to the state constitution. The issue would be placed on the 2006 ballot.
Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said the proposal simply recognizes that anyone who has crossed the border illegally probably has few ties to this country. That, he said, makes them at greater risk of fleeing before trial.
He said his legislation would deny bail only to illegal entrants accused of serious offenses - and only if a judge concluded it was necessary.
But Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, said judges already can deny bail - or at least impose sufficiently high bond - on someone considered a flight risk.
Pearce, however, said his legislation would give judges much clearer authority.
Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said if a tougher standard on bail is needed, then it should apply to everyone, not just those here illegally. He attempted to amend the legislation to give judges broader authority to deny bail to anyone.
But Rep. Ray Barnes, R-Phoenix, said the fact that someone crossed into this country illegally shows they have a criminal history and should be treated differently.
The moves came as supporters of Proposition 200 asked a judge Thursday to rule that Attorney General Terry Goddard is incorrect in his opinion that the initiative barring public benefits to illegal entrants has only limited application.
In a Mesa courtroom, attorney David Abney said Goddard abused his discretion in concluding that the voter-approved measure does not require proof of legal residency for most welfare programs. Abney, who represents Randy Pullen and other initiative backers, told Judge Barbara Jarrett of Maricopa County Superior Court that it is her responsibility to correct Goddard's actions, as state agencies are acting on that advice.
But Assistant Attorney General Susan Segal told Jarrett she should throw the case out. Segal said there is no evidence that any state agency or employee has violated the provisions of Proposition 200 based on Goddard's advice.
Jarrett did not indicate when she will rule.
● Tracy Sawyer of Tribune Newspapers contributed to this report.