- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona House rejected a bill Wednesday that would stiffen sentences for immigrants in the country illegally, after a fervent effort from Republican supporters who wanted the bill to pass.

Republican Sen. Steve Smith of Maricopa sponsored Senate Bill 1377, which essentially would make it impossible for immigrants in the country illegally to receive any leniency in courts when they commit serious crimes.

The House failed to adopt the proposal on a 32-28 vote on Wednesday.

The Legislature has largely avoided immigration bills since it approved SB 1070, which prompted protests and national controversy with its provision requiring police to try to determine the immigration status of people during routine traffic stops.

Republican lawmakers have pushed several bills targeting different aspects of the immigration debate this year, including a bill that Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law that would require some immigrants who are in the country illegally and convicted of crimes to serve longer sentences.

Senate Bill 1377 would require people who break immigration laws and are found guilty of felonies to serve at lease the presumptive terms without the possibility for probation or release.

Conservative lawmakers in support of the bill said it has nothing to do with workers coming across the border for a better life and instead deals with those who commit crimes.

“When do we say ‘it ends’ and stand up and do what’s right?” said Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City.

Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said he supported the proposal that builds on state law that already considers immigration offenses an aggravating factor.

“We are justified constituently and morally to apply a higher penalty,” he said during the vote.

Opponents say the bill would set up a separate and harsher system of justice for immigrants and non-citizens.

Advocates from Puente, a migrant justice organization, were pleased with the outcome and say it comes as the result of community activism against the measure. Still, they were concerned the bill could come back under rules that allow for reconsideration.

“We are going to start working right now to see that it sticks,” said Francisca Porchas, Puente’s organizing director.

She thanked Republicans who voted against the measure and encourage them to vote the same way again.

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