PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has denounced the passage of a massive immigration bill introduced while legislators were away for Presidents Day weekend by Senate President Russell Pearce and passed by members of the Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 7 to 6.
The omnibus bill, SB 1611, would truly turn Arizona into a “papers, please” society, creating new obligations to screen members of the public for citizenship and immigration status in every area from vehicle registrations to college enrollment to employer verifications and licensing. It would break families apart by requiring state housing authorities to evict residents of a public housing unit if anyone living in the dwelling is undocumented. In addition, it would create a new crime of – literally – “driving while undocumented” and require schools to close their classrooms to students who are unable to prove their status.
“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:
“This bill will expand our government bureaucracy beyond recognition. It asks public employees in agencies with strapped budgets to check the papers of every person who comes in the door, over and above their regular job duties, without the necessary training in this complex area of law,” added Meetze. “We have a daunting $2.1 billion budget shortfall and an educational system in shambles, yet Senator Pearce continues to promote these reckless, unconstitutional policies in an attempt to bolster his anti-immigrant agenda.”
In addition to passing SB1611, the Senate Appropriations Committee also approved SB 1308 and SB 1309, two bills that redefine the 14th Amendment and what it means to be a U.S. citizen. The bills also allow the governor to enter into a “Birth Certificate Compact” with other states to deny standard birth certificates to U.S. citizen babies born to immigrant parents. Congress must consent to the creation of the compact in order for it to take effect.
“Our state legislature doesn’t have the right to decide which people born in the United States are worthy of citizenship and which are not,” added ACLU of Arizona Public Policy Director Anjali Abraham. “State legislatures cannot circumvent the Constitution via legislation and these bills should be rejected outright when they hit the Senate floor.”