A House panel approved legislation Wednesday night designed to hit illegal immigrants where they live - literally. On a 10-6 margin the Appropriations Committee voted to make it illegal for landlords to rent to those who do not present certain documents that show they have the right to be in the United States.
Violators could be fined up to $250 a day.
HB2625 now goes to the full House.
Thursday's vote came after Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, agreed to make some changes designed to overcome objections by landlords and real estate agents.
Rather than putting them in the position of figuring out and verifying who is legal, the legislation now spells out that they must ask prospective renters to provide one of a list of 12 acceptable documents.
These range from a state driver's license or birth certificate to a U.S. visa issued to foreign visitors.
It also provides immunity from lawsuit for any landlord who refuses to rent to someone not here legally.
But Courtney Levinus, lobbyist for the Arizona Multihousing Association, said the landlords her organization represents still have concerns about liability if it appears they are refusing to rent to people who appear to be minorities.
The legislation is the latest effort by Pearce to make Arizona less hospitable to those who enter the country illegally and stay here.
He is the architect of the state's new employer sanctions law, which allows a judge to suspend a company's ability to do business if it is found guilty of knowingly hiring undocumented workers. Pearce has also been at the forefront of other measures to deny certain services to illegal immigrants.
Pearce said he designed the measure to prohibit racial profiling, saying landlords have to seek the same documents from all tenants. But Rep. Peter Rios, D-Dudleyville, said the protection in HB2625 for landlords who refuse to rent to those not here legally actually will provide them the right to turn away anyone they suspect might be here illegally under the excuse that the documents did not appear proper.
And that, he said, will be based on the way a prospective tenant looks.
Rios also questioned whether landlords will have to keep copies of the accepted documents from each tenant on file in the office, where they could be stolen and used for identity theft.
Republicans on the panel, all of whom voted for the bill, said they have concerns, too.
For example, Rep. Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, said Canadian "snowbirds" might not have a U.S. visa and therefore would be unable to rent a house or apartment.
And Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, said the immunity provision may not go far enough. He said a landlord might refuse to rent to someone based on questions about the veracity of a document. But Weiers said that person might be able to sue if he or she is, in fact, in this country legally.