Conservative lawmakers in the Arizona legislature made national headlines last week for a slew of draconian and potentially unconstitutional immigration bills. It turns out, however, that those measures were just the beginning of a bigger campaign. On Tuesday the president of the Arizona State Senate, Republican Russell Pearce, introduced a colossal immigration bill, simply entitled “immigration omnibus.” The unusually long 29-page bill is a kind of catch-all for radical proposals, designed to insert immigration enforcement into practically every facet of Arizonan life, including public benefits like Medicaid and K-12 education.
The most extreme measure in the bill targets school children. If passed, the measure stipulates that parents must provide proof of their child’s legal status within 30 days of enrolling him or her in any K-12 school in Arizona—whether public or private (including home school). If the parent fails to provide the appropriate documents within ten days of a second notice from the school, the school must notify local law enforcement and the Department of Education.
This measure is far more extreme than the education bill I wrote about last week, SB1407, which requires schools to count the number of undocumented children in schools. Opponents of SB1407 like the ACLU and constitutional scholars argued that it could violate the Supreme Court decision in Plyler vs. Doe, which ruled that Texas schools must provide children with an education regardless of their immigration status. However, SB1407 would merely count undocumented students, and it was unclear whether doing so would qualify as a violation of Plyler. By contrast, the new measure requires the schools to turn the families into local law enforcement, something that would undoubtedly deter any undocumented parent from sending their child to school. In an email sent from the hearing on the new bill, Alessandra Soler Meetze, the Executive Director of ACLU Arizona, wrote: “We believe this provision defies U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Plyler v. Doe that guarantees that everyone is entitled to an education regardless of their immigration status.”
The earlier education measure, SB1407, looked all but dead last week after it stalled in the Education Committee. However, using his unique powers as Senate President, Pearce reassigned the bill to the Appropriations Committee for Tuesday’s hearing. The other controversial bill that would require hospitals to check the immigration status of patients, SB1405, which stalled in the Judiciary Committee last week, was also set for the Appropriations Committee agenda on Tuesday, as was the bill that seeks to redefine birthright citizenship in Arizona. With these last-minute changes, Arizona’s Senate President has made it clear that he won’t let his anti-immigration bills disappear without a fight.