Pa. House OKs bill on immigration

Posted: June 22, 2012

A BILL requiring people to prove they are in the country lawfully in order to receive public benefits passed the state House on Thursday.

Senate Bill 9 has already passed the Senate, but before it ends up on the desk of Gov. Corbett, it must be considered by that body again because of amendments the House made to it.

It is the first of about 20 anti-illegal-immigrant bills that have passed both legislative bodies, at a time when immigration is a hot topic and the U.S. Supreme Court is expected soon to render its decision on Arizona's controversial immigration law.

Casey Long, director of policy and legislative affairs for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who sponsored the bill, said the senator "looks forward to getting it to the governor's desk for his signature before we recess for the summer" July 1.

The bill has been championed by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, as part of a "National Security Begins at Home" package.

Andy Hoover, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said one major problem of the bill is an amendment added by Metcalfe that would make it a third-degree felony for an undocumented immigrant to use an Access card.

Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Phi-la., who voted against the bill, argued this point on the House floor Thursday. Reading a letter by a Community Legal Services lawyer, she noted that under federal law, an undocumented immigrant may use an Access card on behalf of a U.S.-citizen child or on behalf of a neighbor who needs help buying groceries. The bill would hurt these children and contradict federal law, she said.

Most House members, however, did not agree, passing the bill by a 157-34 vote. n

Contact Julie Shaw at 215-854-2592 or shawj@phillynews.com.

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