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Voters to Decide if English Is Arizona's Official Language

Arizona lawmakers agreed to let voters decide whether to deny more state services to illegal immigrants and whether to make English the state's official language.

The GOP-dominated Legislature rejected other ballot measures to criminalize the presence of illegal immigrants in Arizona, set state punishments for businesses that hire illegal foreign labor and stop communities from prohibiting police enforcement of federal immigration law.

The ballot questions emerged after Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano rejected a wide-ranging immigration bill two weeks ago, saying it would have been too easy on errant employers and too expensive for police agencies.

The two measures approved late Wednesday, at the close of a 164-day session, will go on the November ballot.

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One would bar illegal immigrants from receiving state-funded child care assistance, attending adult education classes and getting cheaper in-state tuition and financial assistance at the state's public universities and community colleges.

Supporters say such restrictions were needed to discourage illegal immigrants from setting up lives in Arizona. Opponents said it was unfair to punish children whose parents sneaked them into the country.

Supporters of making English the state's official language and requiring that government functions be conducted in English said that proposal was needed to encourage the assimilation of immigrants. Opponents say the proposal wasn't so much about protecting English as it is an attack on illegal immigrants.

Southwestern Arizona has become the nation's busiest immigrant-smuggling hotspot, and the state has huge health care and education costs for illegal immigrants and their families. The Pew Hispanic Research Center estimates that 500,000 of the state's 6 million residents are illegal.