Senate backs bill on immigration enforcement - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Senate backs bill on immigration enforcement

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Posted: Friday, June 12, 2009 4:36 pm | Updated: 3:10 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Police officers throughout Arizona would have clear authority to arrest illegal immigrants under the terms of legislation given preliminary Senate approval on Friday. SB 1175 would expand state laws against trespassing to also include anyone not in this country legally.

Police officers throughout Arizona would have clear authority to arrest illegal immigrants under the terms of legislation given preliminary Senate approval on Friday.

SB 1175 would expand state laws against trespassing to also include anyone not in this country legally.

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First-time offenders could be jailed for up to six months. But the legislation would permit - though not require - police to turn violators over to Customs and Border Protection for deportation.

That right would not exist for subsequent offenses. And those caught again would face 2½ years in prison.

Separately, the Senate also agreed to make it a felony for any individual to knowingly or reckless conceal, harbor or shield any illegal immigrant. That crime could land someone in prison for five years.

But the penalty would double if the person was doing the hiding for commercial purposes or financial gain. And the sentence could increase to 20 years if whoever was being hidden was seriously injured or placed in mortal jeopardy.

SB 1280, sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, is aimed at allowing county attorneys to prosecute smugglers who put people into "safe houses."

Lawmakers did agree to create several exemptions from prosecution. That includes members of the illegal immigrant's own family, a victim services provider or a community-based organization that assists victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, the sponsor of the trespassing bill, said he believes state and local police already have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. He said SB 1175 removes any doubt by creating a state law violation.

"All this does is take the handcuffs off of them and allow them to do their job," he said.

Pearce's bill also contains language designed to keep local politicians or the agency chiefs they appoint from preventing police officers from enforcing any laws, even federal, aimed at stopping illegal immigration.

It specifically would preclude what Pearce calls "sanctuary policies" that exist in some communities where public employees are instructed not to inquire about an individual's immigration status. This would affect not just police officers who, in some communities, don't question victims and witnesses, but also anyone else who works for the government in issuing licenses or screening people for benefits.

A final roll-call vote is needed before both measures go to the House.

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