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Arizona Senate Rejects Birthright Citizenship Bills

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Senate on Thursday defeated bills intended to force a Supreme Court ruling against automatic citizenship for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

The bills were defeated on votes of 12-18 and 11-19 as majority Republicans split on the issue.

The Senate also defeated a bill to require hospitals to contact federal immigration officials or local law enforcement if people being treated lack insurance and can't demonstrate legal status. Also defeated was a bill to require schools to file reports on enrollments of illegal immigrant students.

The Senate was poised to vote on a sweeping bill dealing with other public services and everyday activities ranging from driving to registering vehicles.

Supporters said the measures would provide relief to taxpayers while opponents said passing new laws on the contentious issue would damage the state's still-ailing economy.

"If we trying to re-create Arizona's economy and bring jobs, this is not how to do it," said Democratic Sen. Steve Gallard of Phoenix.

The legislation is being considered a year after Arizona enacted an illegal immigration law on local enforcement. It resulted in protests, boycotts and legal challenges that caused a federal judge to put key provisions on hold.

Earlier Thursday, Gov. Jan Brewer refused to wave off legislators from taking up the contentious issue of illegal immigration again.

Dozens of CEOs of major employers and business groups signed a letter distributed Wednesday by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, saying that passage of additional legislation on illegal immigration would damage the economy and tourism.

Arizona should instead push for federal action on immigration and border issues, according to the letter signed by heads of construction companies, hospitals, real estate developers and US Airways.

"Arizona's lawmakers and citizens are right to be concerned about illegal immigration," the letter said. "But we must acknowledge that when Arizona goes it alone on this issue, unintended consequences inevitably occur."

One of the new measures is a wide-ranging bill sponsored by Pearce, who sponsored the 2010 law.

"Enough is enough," said Republican Sen. Russell Pearce, a supporter of the hospitals bill and the other measures. "Why are we afraid to enforce the law and report criminal activity?"

Pearce's new bill would make it harder for illegal immigrants to live, work and get an education in Arizona. It would require the parents of students at K-12 schools to prove the citizenship of their children, bar illegal immigrants from attending public universities and prohibit illegal immigrants from driving in the state.

It also would require the eviction of public housing tenants who let illegal immigrants live with them and make applicants for vehicle titles and registration prove they are in the country legally.

Under the bill, it would be a crime for illegal immigrants to drive in Arizona, The bill would suspend business licenses of employers who purposely ignore a state mandate to use a federal identification database to check new hires' eligibility.

Two bills would set new criteria to get Arizona birth certificates and form a compact with other states, both in an attempt to force a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants are entitled to automatic citizenship.