Tougher sentences proposed for illegal immigrants under Grant's Law

PHOENIX - Illegal immigrants who commit felonies would be required to serve longer prison sentences, under a bill currently in the Arizona State Legislature. 

"Grant's Law" is named after Grant Ronnebeck, a 21-year-old clerk murdered at a Mesa QT in 2015. The accused killer, Apolinar Altamirano, is an illegal immigrant with a criminal past. Ronnebeck's family has worked with the bill's sponsor.

"We need to provide justice for the families that lose family members to this insane barbarism that's out there," said State Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa.

The bill proposes tougher sentences for felons who are illegal immigrants than what the general public would get. Judges could not give a minimum sentence for their crimes, instead they would start at a mid-range, presumptive, sentence. The defendant would also be ineligible for probation, community service, commuted sentences or early release.

"Let's get them behind bars, away from the public where they can't hurt anybody," Smith said.

Prisoner rights advocate James Hamm questions the constitutionality of the proposed law. He also said the bill is too broadly written, and added that everyone who lets an undocumented relative live in their home could qualify for a "Grant's Law" sentence.

"They thought they were targeting a very narrow group of people," Hamm said. "Then they started the process of writing the statute, and all the sudden it's just sort of like an amoeba — just sort of grew."

"Grant's Law" passed in committee Monday. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

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