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Illegal immigrants could face trespassing charges

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix – The trespass bill is being pushed by Sen. Barbara Leff. She said that state and local police need the authority to stop, question and arrest people who crossed into this country illegally. But Eric Edwards, executive director of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, said many of his members aren't interested in having that power. Some of it, he said, is that it won't do any good until the federal government actually seals the border.

(But we also have a great concern for destroying the trust that has been developed in the minority community, not just the illegal community but the minority community.)

He said that even some people who are legally entitled to be here might stop reporting crimes to police for fear of drawing attention to themselves and their families. But lawmakers are moving against those not here legally in new ways. Another bill awaiting consideration would make it illegal for landlords to rent apartments to illegal immigrants, and for banks to give them loans for mortgages. Courtney Gilstrap Levinus who lobbies on behalf of apartment owners said most of them and their and rental agents are not experts in immigration law. And nothing in the proposal would spell out what documents they could and could not accept -- leading to the possibility that landlords could get in trouble for inadvertently breaking the law. Even Rep. Chuck Gray questioned the workability of such a restriction.

(I have been a landlord before and I rented. And they gave me the check and I let them live there. I didn't ask them any other questions or even ask for identification.)

The ban on mortgages is built around a provision in the bill to forbid any loans from being made to people who do not have social security numbers. But Tanya Wheeless, president of the Arizona Bankers Association said federal law also allows banks to accept individual taxpayer identification numbers which are issued by the government -- numbers which are available to anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, whether here legally or not. And she said banks would run afoul of federal law if they refuse to lend money to someone who has one of these government issued numbers. But Rep. Russell Pearce, who is pushing for the new restrictions on apartments and homes, argued this taxpayer identification number was never intended to allow for mortgage. And he said federal law already makes it illegal to encourage people to come to this country illegally.

(And a mortgage certainly does that. In fact, it's outrageous to think that you can buy and home and you have no business in this country and are an internatioanl trespasser.)

That measure is scheduled for a hearing next week along with proposals to punish employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. In Phoenix, for Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.