Changes to AZ immigration law might not sway groups

PHOENIX - Several immigrants' rights groups suing the state and organizations boycotting Arizona businesses say that changes to the new Arizona illegal immigration law won't change their minds.

Gov. Jan Brewer approved significant changes to the new law late last week by signing House Bill 2162. "These changes specifically answer legal questions raised by some who expressed fears that the original law would somehow allow or lead to racial profiling. These new amendments make it crystal clear and undeniable that racial profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated in Arizona," Brewer said.

A major change to the law is the creation of an 18-member Joint Border Security Advisory Committee. According to the bill, the committee would meet monthly and report on the status of the border and analyze statistics related to border crossings and crime. It would also report on the use of state and federal benefits by illegal immigrants. The committee would also recommend to the federal and state governments ways of increasing security at the border. The bill also requires the committee to recommend to the federal government that 12 bases be located along the border and that U.S. troops and the Arizona National Guard be stationed there. The committee is also required to ask that an additional 3,000 border patrol agents be stationed on the border before Dec. 21, 2011. The Legislature also wants the committee to ask the federal government to expedite the deployment of new digital radio technology to border patrol agents.

The first report from the committee is due to the president of the Arizona Senate, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and Secretary of State on Oct. 1. The committee will dissolve on Dec. 31, 2014.

HB 2162 also reduces the minimum fine an entity or government office has to pay from $1,000 to $500 for violating the law by adopting a policy that limits the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

It also defines "lawful contact" in the original law to include a "lawful stop, detention or arrest." That stop or arrest must be made while enforcing any other law or ordinance of a city, county or the state.

It also limits fines for first-time violators who are in the state illegally to $100 and a maximum of 20 days in jail. It also limits jail time for second offenders to 30 days in jail.

The bill also eliminates parts of SB 1070 that would have made it a felony to be an illegal immigrant and caught carrying drugs, chemicals for drugs, a deadly weapon or materials for a terrorist act.

"Arizona is acting responsibly to address a border security crisis that is not of our making. The federal government's failure requires us to act to protect our citizens, and we are doing just that," Brewer said.