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A year ago Saturday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law the controversial measure known as SB 1070. Among other things, this stringent anti-illegal immigration law was to empower local police to check the immigration status of people they stopped if there was "reasonable suspicion" to believe they were in the country illegally, make it necessary for immigrants to carry their documents, and made it difficult to hire or work as a day laborer.
Numerous parties filed suit, including the federal government on the grounds that the measure was pre-empted by federal law. The law's most contested provisions were blocked by a federal judge on the eve of its implementation last July 29, though many provisions - including the day labor portion - still went into effect. People protested and an economic boycott of the state ensued. Still, even as parts of SB 1070 remained hung up in court, it could be said that the law set the stage for the tone of immigration politics during the year that followed.
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Last week, Arizona's state senate voted down five major anti-illegal immigration bills, among them two bills seeking to deny automatic U.S. citizenship to babies born to undocumented immigrants, a bill requiring hospitals to check immigration status, and an "omnibus" bill that would bar undocumented immigrants from public services.
In a state whose name has become a synonym for getting tough on illegal immigration, it's a radical shift from a year ago, when Arizona legislators were considering the stringent SB 1070 sponsored by Sen. Russell Pearce, the Republican who is now state senate president.
What happened? Since the vote late last week, there has been a good amount of analysis that attempts to answer this. Arizona's business community, already suffering from a post-SB 1070 economic boycott of the state, played a substantial role.
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Just like that, Arizona finds itself back at the epicenter of the debate over how far a state can go with immigration enforcement, with perhaps more anti-illegal immigration legislation pending than ever before. Yesterday, the state Senate Appropriations Committee approved bills proposing stringent immigration enforcement measures, including:
- A newly introduced "omnibus" bill, SB 1611, that among other things would bar undocumented immigrants from public housing, demand documentation for children to attend public schools, prohibit undocumented immigrants from driving or buying a car, bar them from obtaining a state marriage license, and make it more difficult for employers to hire them
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Latino elementary school students recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a September 11 memorial service in Tyler, Texas, 2003
Tomorrow has been set as the target date in Arizona for the introduction of two anti-birthright citizenship bills, to be filed in both the state Senate and House.
The Arizona Capitol Times ran a brief Associated Press report with these details:
Republican Sen. Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City said he and Republican Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills agreed on a day for each to introduce the legislation but Gould said that timetables for consideration of the bills by the separate chambers will diverge at that point.
Gould is the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chairman and he said he expects the committee will consider his bill in early February. Meanwhile, Kavanagh indicated that House action on his bill might wait for approval of a new state budget.
Earlier this month, immigrant advocates in Arizona had
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Border fence in Cochise County, AZ
It's a given that the suspected gunman in the fatal shooting that left six dead and critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords this weekend in Tucson wasn't acting purely on the political rhetoric coming out of the Grand Canyon State, nor on Sarah Palin's map of congressional districts with crosshairs over them. As with most things, it's much more complicated than that.
But Saturday's tragedy, regardless of the shooter's motive, has opened up a discussion that is still worth having. The incident has led to a national conversation about the political tone that has been coming out of Arizona, and much of that has to do with immigration politics - and, yes, the surrounding rhetoric.
The state is embroiled in controversy over its SB 1070 illegal immigration law, another new law that has essentially banned a Mexican American studies program, and the championing by some conservative political leaders of a national movement to deny U.S. citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants.