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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bill would make illegal entrance a misdemeanor

    PHOENIX – State legislators agreed yesterday to a compromise on legislation that would have made the presence of an illegal immigrant on U.S. soil a felony.

    Legislators agreed to make the crime a misdemeanor on the first offense, although repeated offenses would be a felony and subject to a one-year prison term.

    The decision was made by the joint conference committee, which was working out the difference between the House and Senate bill.

    Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, who wrote the legislation, said its intention was to give local law enforcement the authority to arrest illegal immigrants for trespassing. Once arrested for trespassing, Leff said, the illegal immigrants would be turned over to federal agencies like Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    “”I never intended to put millions in prison,”” said Leff.

    Leff’s bill, SB 1157, has drawn sharp criticism from Democrats, who said the bill is the state equivalent to the legislation considered in the U.S. Senate, HR 4437. Both bills would make the presence of an illegal immigrant a felony.

    A march in Phoenix on Monday drew more than 100,000 demonstrators to protest HR 4437.

    Rep. Tom Prezelski, D-Tucson, said he believed there was a constitutional problem with Leff’s bill.

    He said if the bill passed and was signed into law, he believed the bill would be taken to court.

    “”It’s the state taking over a federal responsibility,”” Prezelski said. “”The state of Arizona shouldn’t have a foreign policy.””

    He said despite the compromise, Leff’s bill still does not make a distinction between an adult male and a 5-month-old child.

    “”It has the possibility of making felons out of children,”” Prezelski said.

    He also said the bill would lead to racial profiling by the police.

    “”They don’t want that burden,”” he said.

    Prezelski said the bill also turns local authorities into federal immigration officers, despite no formal training.

    “”Law enforcement doesn’t want this,”” said Prezelski.

    Sean King, a spokesperson for the Border Patrol, said the agency opposes the legislation.

    He said Border Patrol agents undergo an intensive five-month training session to understand the complexities of federal immigrant law. He said local law enforcement are currently unqualified to enforce federal immigration laws.

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