'Immigration Omnibus' moved forward in Senate, tensions growing at the Capitol

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PHOENIX – A sweeping bill meant to step up the fight against illegal immigration by targeting illegal immigrants in public housing, public benefits and in the work place is moving forward in the Senate and tensions at the Capitol are escalating.

Senate President Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), the force behind the controversial SB 1070, introduced SB 1611 for consideration on Monday and the Senate Appropriations Committee worked late into the night to approve it.

Under this bill, it would be a crime for an illegal immigrant to drive a vehicle in Arizona.

In addition, it would tighten identification requirements for enrollment in public schools and other public services.

Under a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision, schools are not allowed to turn away students who cannot prove they are legal residents. SB 1611 addresses reporting requirements, mandating that the immigration-status question be asked.

Some say that would prompt parents of children who are here illegally to withdraw them from school.

Right now, parents only have to provide prove of a child's age. A certified copy of a birth certificate is the most common way to do this, but it does not have to be a U.S. birth certificate.

Schools have to report parents who fail to provide such proof of age. SB 1611 would change the list of acceptable documents to specify that they be issued by the U.S. -- a U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport or a certificate of naturalization, among others. That means schools would have to report parents using other documents.

SB 1611 would also add an enforcement component to the state’s mandate that employers use E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires. SB 1611 would require employers to prove that they did use E-Verify. Failure to do so could result in the revocation of company's business license.

Another element of 1611 would require cities to evict residents of public housing who are unable to prove that they are in the country legally.

The Senate Appropriations Committee took up SB 1611, which carries the reference title “Immigration Omnibus,” as well as several of other immigration measures on Tuesday. The bill now goes before the full Senate for consideration despite opposition from some members of the business community who say they suffered backlash when SB 1070 passed last year.

Also on the table Tuesday were bills to challenge automatic citizenship for children born in the U.S. to parents who are here illegally. Another bill would require hospitals to check the immigration status of non-emergency patients.

A bill regarding drop houses and human smuggling is to due to come up for a vote in the Senate today.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema introduced the bill, which would toughen the penalty for forgery or a rental, sale, or lease agreement on a property if a renter or seller intends to use the property as an illegal drop house.