Lawmakers in Arizona were divided on a series of bills that mark the first immigration proposals in the Legislature since the state passed it's controversial immigration law six years ago.
The Senate passed a bill that would stiffen sentences for immigrants in the country illegally, but killed two others targeting illegal immigration.
Lawmakers have largely steered clear of the topic since the 2010 law, SB 1070, sparked national controversy, led to a lengthy court fight and rattled the business community. But the three measures made it to the Senate floor Monday as Republicans looked to again strengthen immigration laws.
Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, sponsored a bill that would essentially make it impossible for immigrants in the country illegally to receive any leniency in the courts when they commit serious crimes. The proposal originally would have repealed a law letting state corrections officials release prisoners to federal authorities after serving half their sentences, but an amendment adopted Monday left that law in place.
Smith said the bill came in response to a case from last year in which an immigrant who entered the country illegally and was out on bail for a separate crime shot and killed a 21-year-old convenience store employee over a pack of cigarettes.
"It's a good first step in the right direction of protecting families like his," Smith said, referring to the victim's father, who was in attendance for the vote.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, opposed the measure, saying it unfairly targets a specific group.
"To single out this one particular situation, what we are doing is making a political point," he said. "We are grandstanding here."
The bill now moves to the House.
At the same time, the Senate failed to adopt two other measures that make life more difficult for immigrants who have entered the country illegally.
One bill by Smith would have taken state funding from municipalities that enact "sanctuary city" policies benefiting immigrants. That proposal would add stiffer penalties to laws adopted when the Legislature passed SB 1070.
The other measure, by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, would have prevented immigrants in the country illegally from acquiring a city-issued identification card. The motivation for Kavanagh's bill stemmed from a Phoenix proposal to issue identification cards to people including homeless and those who have entered the country illegally.
The Senate could still decide to reconsider the bills.
Republicans voting against the measures said they were voting on the merits of each bill, not the topic.
"You're lumping them all together as do many people, but to me they're three entirely separate bills dealing with separate subjects and they do separate things," said Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix.
He noted, however, that the Legislature faced "immigration fatigue" in the wake of SB 1070 and the ensuing lawsuits.
Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, said he supported the measure adding stricter sentences but said the other two might lead to "symbolically chasing people around if they can't show papers."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.