Arizona Senate votes down immigration bills

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2011 12:35 PM

PHOENIX (Reuters) - The Arizona Senate on Thursday rejected five immigration bills, placing a major stumbling block in the way of state conservatives' hopes to pass more laws cracking down on illegal immigrants.

The Senate voted down bills that sought to provoke a reevaluation by the U.S. Supreme Court of birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, Senate officials said.

Other defeated measures sought to ban undocumented students from studying at state universities, as well as requiring hospitals and schools to check the legal status of patients and students respectively.

The votes came despite the Senate having a majority of Republicans, generally more sympathetic to such measures than Democrats.

"This was a clear statement that Arizona needs to focus on its priorities, not try to solve the immigration problem," Democratic State Senator Steve Gallardo told Reuters.

Last year state lawmakers grabbed headlines after Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed a controversial state immigration bill requiring state and local police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they suspected was in the country illegally.

Controversial parts of the law, which kick-started a vigorous national debate over what to do with nearly 11 million illegal immigrants living in the shadows stateside, were stayed by a federal judge before it came into effect. Arizona is appealing the ruling.

Despite the state Senate defeat, there is a possibility the laws could be revived during this legislative session in the form of amendments to other bills, or through calls for a revote.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Writing by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Jerry Norton)