Anti-immigrant measure battered in committee | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Anti-immigrant measure battered in committee

Posted By on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 at 10:21 AM

The bill to prohibit state services — except emergency or life-saving — to people who can't prove their legal residency is before a House committee today. Gerard Matthews is on hand and will have a report and video later.

Sponsor Jon Hubbard (pictured), a freshman Tea Partyer from Jonesboro, came under a barrage of tough questions, few of which he could answer coherently, and finally offered to pull the bill down, but not before an angry outburst about the ills of immigrants. But committee members objected to pulling it down. They wanted questioning to continue, even if it took until the House convened at 1:30 p.m. The committee recessed for the House session and will continue afterward. The morning session saw Hubbard finally agree to an amendment to continue to allow pre-natal medical services to pregnant undocumented women.

Among others, Hubbard claimed majority support for his bill, though he invoked an anti-immigrant ballot measure that couldn't even get enough signatures to reach the ballot last year. Hubbard claimed his bill would save vast sums of money, though he presented no documentation.

This is the bill that originally would have made all of us — legal or not — file notarized affidavits as proof of eligibility for services — driver license, car tag, emergency room, daycare, nursing homes and much, much more. That requirement was deleted for its obvious problems. Now, Hubbard says, the national e-Verify system could be used (though this system is frequently criticized by anti-immigrant forces as flawed and it was suggested that the system only could be used for employment verification, not other purposes.)

I invite you to listen to Hubbard while you can. If you detect a trace of the milk of human kindness, your hearing is better than mine.

Under tough questioning by Rep. Linda Tyler to list benefits granted improperly, Hubbard mentioned education. Federal law prohibits states from barring education to children. He knows that; he just doesn't like it. Pressed, he mentioned health coverage for children through ARKids; he mentioned in-state tuition (which a report yesterday said is not being granted to undocumented students); and workers compensation and unemployment compensation (illegals are not eligible for unemployment already). He had no idea of what code must be cited to guard against payment of these last two benefits to "illegals."

Doesn't he think immunization and pre-natal care might be a benefit to the state, not just recipients? Immunization would help guard citizens against disease, he said, but "anything past that I"m not willing to say these people deserve or entitled to these benefits."

Even children in utero, who'll be citizens when born?

Hubbard claimed to be a champion of the unborn and went off on a tangent on Gov. Mike Beebe's position on abortion. "I am very sympathetic to the unborn. They are truly innocent victims of what's happening to them ... But also the taxpayers of Arkansas are equally innocent victims of what's happening to them through no fault of their own." So there you have it: If the choice is pre-natal care to guarantee healthy birth of an American citizens versus paying for that care, Hubbard votes against mom and child. Ultimately, he acceded to political reality.

Hubbard was embarrassed repeatedly. He praised Tennessee's bill to punish businesses that hire illegals. Rep. Jim Nickels noted that Hubbard voted against Nickels' bill to punish Arkansas contractors who hired illegals.

He was forced to agree wording of his bill could jeopardize athletic scholarships for foreign students. He said he was willing to pull the bill to make it more "reader friendly."

More questioning on pre-natal care, before the amendment, came from Rep. Tiffany Rogers:

Hubbard said pre-natal care is a "magnet" that draws people here. If children are born with serious problems because of lack of care and become expenses of the state, Hubbard said he was sympathetic, but still firm against pre-natal care: "I think these people are exploiting the compassion of the people of Arkansas."

Hubbard became put out at the continued illustration of the flaws in his legislation on pre-natal care. "I love children," he declared. "The laws of immigration are not being enforced, if we don't enforce them, our children and grandhildren will be paying for this down the line." He was called down to stick to his bill as he moved into anangry oration on the evils of immigration.

More problems:

* Lack of definition of emergency or life-threatening.

* Legal question of state determining legal status — immigration has been considered a federal responsibility.

* How does an 85-year-old woman without birth certificates or a driver license prove her citizenship? "I'm assuming there's a record somewhere," Hubbard offered.

* As written, the bill prohibited services for people in the country legally, though not citizens. Hubbard agreed to amend the bill to exempt people in the country legally.

* His law would run afoul of federal law prohibiting asking children about residency status.

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