Wed, June 26

Pearce: illegal immigrants should be banned from universities, community colleges

Senate President Russell Pearce

Senate President Russell Pearce

PHOENIX -- The president of the state Senate introduced legislation Monday to ban illegal immigrants from state universities and community colleges, make it a crime for them to drive in Arizona and include new public school reporting requirements that could induce the parents of children not here legally to keep them home.

SB 1611, set for hearing this afternoon, also would put companies that do not use a federal database to check the status of new workers out of business. And it would require cities to evict anyone in public housing who cannot prove legal presence in this country.

But Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, framed the legislation as not doing much at all.

"This is clean-up,' he told Capitol Media Services.

"All it does is do what the voters have passed in terms of no taxpayer dollars for illegals,' Pearce said. "It just ties it up.'

The Appropriations Committee also will debate SB 1308 and 1309 which together are designed to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in this country, and SB 1405 which would prohibit hospitals from providing non-emergency care to illegal immigrants and require officials to call federal immigration authorities.

Pearce said SB 1611 is not challenging a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which forbids schools from refusing to enroll students who cannot prove they are legal U.S. residents. But he said nothing in the ruling prohibits schools from asking, as long as no student is turned away for failing to provide the documentation.

"We're just counting citizens,' Pearce said.

But the effect could be the same.

Under current law, parents need provide only some proof of a child's age, such as a certified copy of a birth certificate. But nothing requires that birth certificate be from the United States.

SB 1611 alters that list, with a parent now having to provide a birth certificate from U.S. states or territories, a U.S. passport, a certificates of naturalization or one of several other documents.

What could make it a deterrent is existing law which says if a parent doesn't provide the document -- in this case, one of the new documents -- the school is required to notify law enforcement.

The language governing universities and community colleges is more clear cut.

Current law says those who cannot prove legal presence in this country cannot get the discounted tuition available to Arizona residents. But they may enroll if they pay the full out-of-state tuition and fees.

SB 1611 would preclude their admission entirely. Pearce said it is irrelevant that the fees these students are paying may help keep tuition down for Arizona residents.

"They can't be employed' in this country, Pearce said, making their education not a benefit to Arizona. And he disputed the contention that out-of-state tuition covers the full cost of educating students at universities or community colleges.

The section aimed at employers is designed to put teeth into a 2007 law allowing a state judge to suspend or revoke the business licenses of firms found guilty of knowingly hiring undocumented workers.

That law requires companies to use E-Verify, a federal database of authorized workers, though there is no penalty for failing to comply. The result, said Pearce, is only about 25 percent of Arizona firms actually check to see if new workers are in this country legally.

SB 1611 would require the state attorney general to notify any company that is not participating in the program. Failure to sign up within six months would let the attorney general ask a judge to suspend any and all licenses that allow the firm to remain in business.

Pearce said, though, the mandate would apply only to companies that actually are hiring.

"If you're a mom-and-pop shop, only work with family ... that was meant to be an exception,' he said.

Pearce said the provision making it a crime for illegal immigrants to drive simply reinforces the fact they should not be in this country in the first place.

But rather than simply turning the motorists over to federal officials, it requires that anyone found guilty be sentenced to at least 30 days in prison. The measure also would require a judge to order the vehicle seized and sold, with the proceeds being used to help balance the state budget.