February 6, 2014
An Arizona Republican wants to make it a crime for undocumented people to do almost anything in his state.
State Rep. Carl Seel (R-Phoenix) has proposed a bill that would make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to receive any public benefits — including attending public school or using a public road. Violating the proposed law would result in misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for subsequent offenses. Driving while undocumented would result in forfeiture of the car, according to the bill.
Seel’s proposal comes less than two years after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated several sections of Arizona’s controversial 2010 law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, SB 1070. But Seel appears to lack the support that former state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) had for passing SB 1070, which required immigrants to carry documentation at all times.
“We really don’t think it’s going to go anywhere,” Erika Andiola, an Arizona Dreamer and co-director of the DRM Coalition, told The Huffington Post. “This guy is just trying to get attention.”
Seel’s idea isn’t entirely new. Pearce followed up his pioneering immigration legislation in 2011 with an omnibus immigration bill that would have barred undocumented students from attending public schools or community colleges, and limited other public services. The proposal foundered, in part due to opposition from Arizona’s business community, and Pearce lost his Senate seat in a recall election that year.
“Honestly, I feel like a lot of people learned their lesson after Russell Pearce was kicked out of office,” Andiola said.
Seel declined a request to discuss his proposal with HuffPost, but defended the idea in an interview with a local broadcaster.
“It’s really a continuation of the proper role of state government in relationship to the federal government and enforcing immigration law,” Seel told KPNK in Phoenix.
The proposal contradicts federal law in several respects. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that denying a public education to undocumented immigrants violates the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law to all people. The Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling on SB 1070 said Arizona could partner with the federal government to enforce existing immigration laws, but could not establish its own immigration policies that contradict federal law.
For Isabel García, an attorney and an activist with the Arizona organization Derechos Humanos, the bill shows that some Republicans remain committed to extreme immigration laws that are at odds with the majority of the Latino community.
“The GOP is not satisfied with border enforcement,” García said. “They want interior enforcement too. They won’t be happy until they’ve got police coming after our communities.”
The Arizona GOP recently has been trying to shed its hard-line immigration past. In the hope of luring the 2016 Republican National Convention, conservatives in Phoenix have played up the importance of the city’s demographics for a party performing poorly among Hispanics.
The convention pitch sidesteps the role that Arizona Republicans have played in alienating Latinos from the GOP in the first place. In addition to passing SB 1070, conservatives in Arizona passed a law in 2010 prohibiting a progressive Mexican-American Studies curriculum in public schools. Also, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has refused to allow undocumented immigrants who have been granted legal status under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action program to obtain drivers’ licenses.