Meet Arizona’s Even More Anti-Immigrant Bill

I spent a week in Tucson in September after having heard many stories about the friendliness of the town and the funky collective atmosphere of its diverse population.

But because of the militarization of the border and the passage of SB 1070, which would require police to check the documents of people they suspect are in the country illegally, I found a community overwhelmed by fear.

While there I heard stories of parents afraid to send their children to school for fear that police would pick them up and send them to Mexico. Many refused to talk to me at all, fearing something they said could get someone they know deported.

A pastor kicked me off the grounds of a church that ran a day labor site, saying that lawyers prohibited anyone there speaking to the press. What made the incident so sad was that the church, Southside Presbyterian, birthed the Sanctuary Movement in the early 80s. It was where Rev. John Fife hung signs outside the church: “This is a Sanctuary for the Oppressed of Central America,” and “Immigration: do not profane the Sanctuary of God.” The church gave shelter to thousands fleeing the Central American death squads. In 1986, Fife was one of eight activists convicted on alien-smuggling charges and served five years’ probation. His fellow defendant, Sister Darlene Nicgorski, argued for her First Amendment right to practice her religion, saying, “If I am guilty of anything, I am guilty of the gospel.”

Still, some politicians don’t think SB 1070, which is under injunction pending its constitutionality, can be tested in court and which has fueled such ugly divisiveness across the state, goes far enough.

Now, Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who was behind SB 1070, has introduced what he calls “cleanup” legislation which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.

Pearce has made clear his goal is to harass undocumented workers into leaving the state. Of course, that the laws might also cause harassment for immigrants who are here legally doesn’t seem to bother Pearce or his supporters much.

To get a sense of just how draconian it is, The ACLU of Arizona provides the following overview of the bill:

“This bill is miles beyond SB1070 in terms of its potential to roll back the rights and fundamental freedoms of both citizens and non-citizens alike,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “It demonstrates the lack of leadership, lack of priorities and complete lack of understanding by some Arizona lawmakers of what it means to respect and uphold the Constitution of the United States and Arizona.” 

“SB 1611 represents an unprecedented attack on the rights of students and creates a permanent underclass of young people in this state who will be shut out of a basic education,” added Meetze.  “It defies the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 decision, Plyler v. Doe, which prohibited states from conditioning access to public education on who the child is, regardless of immigration status.” 

Meetze added that the provision creating a new state offense of driving while undocumented will allow local and state police to “pull over anyone they suspect could be an immigrant.  This will give officers license to profile minority motorists, even those who have not committed any traffic violation at all.” 

In addition to the provisions mentioned above, the 29-page bill also:

Prohibits universities or community colleges from admitting any student who cannot present one of the listed documents to prove legal status;

  • Mandates that all businesses register with E-verify or face the revocation of their business licenses; 
  • Establishes new eligibility requirements for public benefits that violate federal law and enhances penalties (from a class 2 to a class 1 misdemeanor) for agency employees who fail to report “discovered” violations of federal immigration law; 
  • Limits the types of documents a person can show to prove their identity;
  • Requires the state police training agency, AZ POST, to summarily revoke a peace officer’s ability to serve the public if the officer does not uphold state or constitutional laws, even if the officer is just trying to exercise his or her professional discretion; 
  • Prohibits judges from considering bail for any undocumented immigrant who is charged with any felony offense;
  • Establishes mandatory 6-month jail term for anyone convicted of using another person’s identity to obtain employment; and 
  • Prohibits individuals from obtaining a vehicle title and registration, fingerprint clearance card or license of any kind until they are able to demonstrate satisfactory immigration status. 

In addition, the Appropriations Committee has also passed two bills that would redefine the 14th Amendment and challenge the citizenship of babies born to immigrant parents.

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Lauri Lebo is the author of The Devil in Dover: Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, a book about the 2005 First Amendment trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover in which intelligent design was ruled creationism.