PHOENIX – Emboldened by a voter-approved law denying some government benefits to illegal immigrants, the Legislature voted Thursday to impose new restrictions on the thousands of people who sneak into the state each year from Mexico (search).
Lawmakers approved a bill that would prohibit illegal immigrants from attending adult education classes, receiving child care assistance and having in-state tuition status at public universities.
Supporters say additional restrictions are needed to discourage illegal immigration because Arizona (search), the busiest illegal entry point on the nation' care and education costs for immigrants and their families.
Another bill approved Thursday would bar local governments from putting taxpayer money into day labor centers that help illegal immigrants find work.
Opponents of the bills say they are unfair because they do nothing to confront employers who turn to immigrants for cheap labor. Employer sanctions had been added to the bills but were dropped Wednesday by lawmakers who said they wanted to keep the legislation simple.
Both bills are now headed to Gov. Janet Napolitano (search). Her spokeswoman Pati Urias declined to comment on the proposals.
People on both sides of the debate say the federal government hasn't done enough to enforce immigration laws.
Republican Sen. Dean Martin (search), a supporter of the immigrant restriction bill, scoffed at the idea that the state should wait for the federal government to fix the problems.
"The citizens of the state of Arizona are tired of waiting for the federal government to do something and want us to do something," Martin said. "This may not reach and do everything that everybody wants ... But it's something that a large majority of the voters in the state of Arizona have wanted."
Voters approved a ballot measure in November that requires people to produce proof of immigration status when getting certain government services and will punish government workers for failing to report illegal immigrants who try to get aid.
The law, approved by a comfortable margin, also requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote.
Since then, legislators who want to limit immigration have filed about 20 bills this year to confront illegal immigration or related issues.