January 13, 2016
Alia Beard Rau
The Arizona Senate kicked off the 2016 legislative session with a heated immigration debate Wednesday, complete with protesters being tossed from a committee hearing and warnings the state was returning to the divisive era of Senate Bill 1070, the controversial 2010 immigration bill.
Some Republican lawmakers are pushing to handcuff a grassroots effort to develop a Phoenix identification card that supporters say would make it easier for residents, including undocumented immigrants, to access banking services, report crimes, use city programs and volunteer at their children's schools.
Senate Bill 1017 would allow cities to develop a "municipal service access card," but would prohibit them from calling it an "identification card."
Cities could only provide an identification card if it meets the more stringent criteria the state requires for official cards such as driver's licenses -- criteria undocumented immigrants and people without a permanent address often cannot meet. Members of the LGBTQ community said such cards would also allow them to have an ID where they choose their gender.
The Phoenix City Council last month voted to study creating a city photo-identification and service card after members of the grassroots One Phx ID coalition proposed it.
More than a dozen cities in other states have similar cards. The IDs are considered secondary identification, so unlike a driver's license or U.S. passport, they cannot be used to vote or pass through airport security. They often include the individual's name, photo and address.
Sen. John Kavanagh, one of the primary sponsors of SB 1070, said he heard about the Phoenix debate and decided to introduce a bill to limit what the cities can do.
"It's called the whack-a-mole method," he said. "We often engage in that."
He held a hearing for the bill in the Senate Government Committee, which he chairs, Wednesday. The committee voted 4-3 with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing to advance the bill.
The bill must also get hearing before the Senate Public Safety, Military and Technology Committee before advancing to the full Senate. But that's likely to happen given Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, who has introduced some of the state's most controversial anti-illegal immigration legislation, chairs that committee. Kavanagh is vice chairman of that committee.
Kavanagh said allowing cities to issue official identification cards "is identity theft waiting to happen" because it would be too easy for someone to use a fake name to get a card. He said a lower-level city services card would still give individuals access to some services.
"This is about stopping identity theft and protecting the integrity of government-issued ID cards," he said.
Opponents argued the bill is really about immigrants.
Members of One Phoenix ID held a rally prior to the hearing Wednesday. Several were ejected from the hearing and Senate building as they stood up and chanted, "No more anti-immigrant bills."
Although Kavanagh threatened to contact police, no arrests were made.
"They want to bring us back to the nightmare that was SB1070," said Viridiana Hernandez, coordinator of the One Phx ID coalition. "These bills are irrational. There are other priorities in the state."
She said she doesn't understand why the Legislature would oppose an effort she said is intended improve safety in communities. "The biggest reason for these cards is so individuals do not have to fear reporting crimes," she said.
Raquel Guerrero, a student, said she was raped in 2012. At the time, she said, she was undocumented and had no Arizona identification. She said she was afraid to report the crime.
"I only had a Mexican ID, Mexican passport and consular card," she said. "I felt like I would be endangering myself to be deported."
She said if she'd had a city ID, she may have been more willing to call the police.
"I would have not only helped out our community, but helped myself," she said.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, voted against the bill.
"We saw the community identify a problem, join together and address that problem with their local government," he said. "Now here we are at the Legislature in the first week of the session and we're meddling with that process. We have much bigger issues we should be dealing with."
Phoenix Councilman Jim Waring, who opposes the city cards, testified in support of Kavanagh's bill.
"It's a bad idea," he said of the city IDs, saying he fears it could cost the city millions of dollars it can't afford. "I'm hoping this bill will dissuade my colleagues from making a budget choice that's irresponsible."
He said there is no good reason for it. Individuals do not need identification to report crimes, he said. Police will ask individuals for identification, but the individual has the right to refuse to provide it.
"Not having identification is not a crime," he said. "You should not be arrested for not having ID."
And he said it is not the city's job to make sure illegal immigrants have valid identification. "If we're looking at 'how do I get an ID when I'm not a citizen' that's a question for the federal government," he said.
Wednesday's hearing was likely the first of several immigration battles expected at the Legislature this session.
-- Kavanagh has also introduced a bill that would prevent cities from counting undocumented immigrants in the census used to determine how much state-shared revenue they receive.
-- Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, introduced a bill Wednesday to penalize an Arizona city, town or county that “willfully chooses not to enforce or cooperate with current immigration laws” by withholding state-shared revenues.
House Bill 2223 aims to punish so-called “sanctuary cities,” or jurisdictions that make it easier for undocumented immigrants to live in the U.S. and access public services. He said his legislation targets Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa and Tucson, and any other jurisdiction that he said doesn’t follow federal law.
“Phoenix is about to write ID cards for illegal immigrants. An ID card for someone in the state illegally? Come on," he said. "As long as they want to do that, we’ll take their funds and divide those funds among other cities and towns.”
When speaking of the bill, Lawrence invoked crimes in other cities committed by undocumented immigrants, saying “I love this community and I hate to see it overrun by people that dislike us, that use us and that will harm us."
SB 1070 included a provision banning sanctuary cities. It is one of the portions of that law still on the books. But Dan Pochoda, senior counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said it cannot be used in a manner that violates the U.S. Constitution.
He said Lawrence appears to be pushing for an unenforceable law.
“Nobody can be detained by any local law enforcement solely on the suspicion of being here undocumented,” Pochoda said. "Cities are not allowed to detain people they just suspect of being here illegally. It’s unconstitutional, and that’s what they want them to do."
As of Aug. 2015, the number of cities and counties in the U.S. with “sanctuary city” policies numbered about 350, according to the Migration Policy Institute.