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Arizona Bill Wants to Make Sure Illegal Immigrants Do Maximum Time for Crimes

Customs and Border Patrol field officers examine seized drugs discovered at an Arizona point of entry. (Donna Burton/U.S. Customs and Border Patrol)

The Arizona Senate wants to crack down on illegal immigration like it hasn’t done since 2010.

Legislation was approved in late February that targets illegal aliens who commit crimes in Arizona for the strictest law enforcement possible.

Opponents call it discriminatory because one group is targeted. The sponsor of Grant’s Law, Sen. Steve Smith (R), unapologetically admits they are right – one group has a big red bull’s-eye on its collective back.

“People who are not citizens of this country are not afforded the same rights as our citizens,” Smith told Fox-10 TV in Phoenix. “You can like that, or you can dislike that. I don’t care, that is the law.”

Ira Mehlman, the media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told PJM that FAIR supports Arizona Senate Bill 1377, which would make sure illegal immigrants do the maximum time for all of their crimes.

Mehlman said the only reason Arizona’s legislature has to get involved in this is because the federal government isn’t doing its job.

“Under the Obama administration, the entire country is becoming a sanctuary for illegal aliens because the Department of Homeland Security has so narrowly defined the people they are going to deport,” Mehlman said. “Even a lot of criminals are put back out on the street.”

Smith (R) named his bill Grant’s Law for Arizona convenience store clerk Grant Ronnebeck, who was murdered during a robbery committed by an illegal immigrant –whom Immigration and Customs Enforcement had released on bond.

“It will send a clear message that Arizona is going to lead the fight against some of these criminals,” Steve Ronnebeck told Fox-10 TV in Phoenix when Smith introduced the legislation named after his son.

The Department of Homeland Security told the Arizona Republic that 121 illegal immigrants, who were convicted of crimes in the U.S. and were released to be sent home, killed someone while they awaiting deportation.

“This needs to stop. I’ll do this all day long, every day of the week if I had to, we have got to stop the madness. These are preventable deaths,” Ronnebeck said.

To be fair, Grant Ronnebeck’s murder was not only the result of a failure by ICE.

Apolinar Altamirano, the man who killed Grant Ronnebeck, should have been in an Arizona state prison even before being picked up by ICE agents. But he got probation with no jail time for a burglary conviction.

Sen. Smith doesn’t want that to happen again.

Grant’s Law would make it impossible for a judge to have any discretion in the sentence handed down to an illegal immigrant convicted of a crime in Arizona.

The legislation would also allow the state to release illegal immigrants who have served 50 percent of their sentence to the federal government so they could be deported.

Smith called Grant’s Law “a good first step” during the Senate vote on his proposal.

Although the Arizona Senate passed Grant’s Law, it rejected another of Smith’s proposals. It would have taken state funding away from so-called “sanctuary cities” where officials refuse to enforce federal and state immigration laws.

A third immigration reform proposal, offered by Sen John Kavanagh (R), which would have prevented illegal immigrants from getting city-issued identification cards, was also defeated.

Carlos Garcia, the executive director of Puente Arizona, is worried. He told NBC Latino there has been a resurgence of anti-immigrant fervor in the Arizona Legislature.

Garcia said he hasn’t seen anything like this since the passage of Senate Bill 1070, which allowed police to stop and challenge anyone to prove their U.S. citizenship.

He blames one man.

“It wasn’t until last year when Donald Trump entered the campaign trail targeting our community, which created this hysteria once again,” said Garcia.

“We heard it in before from [former Gov.] Jan Brewer and the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” Garcia added. “This is something that is concerning because it is not a campaign issue now, but it is turning into real policy in the state of Arizona.”

Sen. Martin Quezada (D) shares Garcia’s concern. The AP reported that during Senate debate Quezada said Grant’s Law unfairly singled out one group of people to make a political point.

Mehlman said there’s nothing at all unfair about targeting a group of individuals who are in the U.S. illegally.

“When you have committed a crime here and you are not a citizen of the United States and you have actually not just violated the law for which you were convicted,” he said, “you have also violated the terms of  your presence here in the United States.”

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has not voiced an opinion on Grant’s Law. It must still be approved by the Arizona House before it goes to his desk.