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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

NH measure backs immigration law

By NORMA LOVE

The Associated Press

CONCORD (AP) – A New Hampshire resolution in support of the tough Arizona law that requires police to check the immigration status of people they want to stop for any reason drew opposition Tuesday rather than support.

Only opponents testified at a sparsely attended Senate hearing where the sponsor didn’t even show up.

“Except for the native people, we here in this room are the descendants of immigrants and some us are the descendants of illegal immigrants,” said Claire Ebel, executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union.

Ebel and other opponents said New Hampshire should not endorse a law that could be ruled unconstitutional.

The Senate Internal Affairs Committee later voted 2-1 to recommend that the Senate kill the resolution.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over the Arizona law. Civil rights groups say it encourages racial profiling and ethnic stereotyping. Supporters argue states are doing the job because the federal government has failed to adequately deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

New Hampshire’s resolution says illegal immigration is costing billions of dollars in welfare, health care, education and prison costs. It says New Hampshire supports Arizona’s right to protect its borders and citizens.

Eva Castillo of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees said adopting the “hateful” resolution would discourage the immigrant community from reporting crimes to police.

“This makes everyone unsafe,” she said.

She said the resolution encourages racial profiling.

“I do not want to have to carry my papers to show I am entitled to be in this country every time I open my mouth,” she said.

Cathy Chesley, director of the office of immigration and refugee services for New Hampshire Catholic Charities, said New Hampshire lawmakers should discourage anti-immigrant attitudes and rhetoric.

“New Hampshire lawmakers interested in promoting, fair, just laws should focus attention on passing immigration reform rather than supporting a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that is Arizona’s and not New Hampshire’s,” she said.

New Hampshire does not have an Arizona-type law, but has wrestled with the issue of illegal immigrants over the years.

In 2005, a district court judge ruled that New Ipswich police could not use trespassing charges to enforce immigration laws. He dismissed trespassing charges against a group of illegal immigrants. He said police violated the U.S. Constitution by trying to enforce federal laws. Then-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, who now is a U.S. Senator, said there was no basis for appeal.

New Hampshire lawmakers have since rejected a number of bills on the issue, most recently in February. The House killed a House bill that would have required law enforcement to verify the immigration status of everyone arrested or detained.

The Senate just passed an amended bill back to the House to study the effect of illegal immigration on the state.

The Senate votes Wednesday on a bill requiring students receiving in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges to be legal residents of the United States. The House version requires the University System of New Hampshire to develop a procedure to determine that all students receiving the in-state tuition rate are legal residents. The Senate will vote on an amendment that simply requires the students to execute an affidavit swearing to the fact.

Meanwhile, supporters of immigrants’ rights were rallying in Dover on Tuesday to heighten awareness of immigration reform and workers’ rights.