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Weekly Diaspora: Anti-immigrant bills faltering, even in Arizona

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After orchestrating a divisive national campaign to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, Arizona legislators watched their own anti-birthright citizenship bill flounder in the state senate this week.

ColorLines' Jamilah King reports that senate bill 1309 -- introduced with considerable fanfare only two weeks ago -- met significant opposition during its first senate hearing on Monday and was subsequently withdrawn by one of its chief sponsors, state Sen. Ron Gould (R). The swift defeat comes as a surprise to both supporters and opponents of the bill, as Arizona's Republican-controlled legislature has managed to pass a number of controversial measures in the last year, without much difficulty.

What's more, Arizona legislators-headed by senate president Russell Pearce (R)-have brazenly led the charge against birthright citizenship, with legislation being introduced at both state and federal levels. So while 14 states are attempting to restrict citizenship and force a Supreme Court review of the 14th Amendment, according to Doug Ramsey at the Public News Service, Arizona had appeared to be the most likely to pass the controversial measure.

The effort isn't completely dead, however. An identical measure introduced into the House may still stand a chance, as it has yet to reach committee. Meanwhile, Gould will keep trying to secure votes for SB 1309, while Pearce considers reassigning the bill to a friendlier committee. Nevertheless, the measure's easy defeat in a state notorious for embracing hard line immigration laws may bode ill for similar efforts elsewhere.

SB 1070 copycat measures provoke division in Colorado, New Mexico and Florida

Indeed, attempts to pass Arizona-style immigration laws in other states have been repeatedly slowed by myriad legislative roadblocks and growing division between and within political parties.

In Colorado, proponents of an immigration law modeled after Arizona's SB 1070 say they are planning to withdraw the measure after weeks of deliberation and indecision, reports Scot Kersgaard at the Colorado Independent. Just days after Arizona lawmakers withdrew their vaunted birthright citizenship bill, Colorado Rep. Randy Baumgardner (R) told reporters that legislators-who had hoped to avoid the kinds of costly legal challenges provoked by SB 1070- had failed to resolve the "possibly unconstitutional" elements of the measure.

In New Mexico, an executive order issued by Governor Susanna Martinez (R) that requires police to investigate the immigration statuses of all criminal suspects has sparked the ire of state Democrats. The American Independent's Matthew Reichbach reports that Democratic legislators held a press conference last week denouncing the order, which is similar to Arizona's SB 1070 and could lead to racial profiling.

While Martinez was careful to prohibit law enforcement from asking victims and witnesses about their immigration statuses (a practice that has, in Arizona, discouraged immigrant victims and witnesses from reporting violent crimes), Rep. Antonio Maestas (D) voiced concerns that the order could inhibit domestic violence victims from coming forward. Often, law enforcement responding to domestic disputes regard both parties as suspect (even fingerprinting and taking both into custody) until full statements can be taken and assessed-at which time, the victim is released.

But, as I've written before, in such cases victims run the risk of being questioned about their immigration status and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In response, Democratic lawmakers are pushing several bills that would overturn the governor's order.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Republicans are divided over the prospect of introducing their own SB 1070 copycat bill, reports Elena Shore at New America Media/La Prensa, Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) argues that such a measure would be bad for the state, but newly elected Republican Governor Rick Scott (who campaigned on an anti-immigration platform) maintains that "police should have the ability to ask people for immigration papers while they go about their jobs, even during routine stops."

Meanwhile, an SB 1070-type bill that was introduced last session may get a makeover as its author, Rep. William Snyder (R), tries to soften its provisions in advance of the upcoming legislative session, which opens March 8.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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