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Arizona considers Texas-inspired law allowing cops to enforce immigration law

Arizona moves closer to passing a Texas-inspired law directing law enforcement to arrest migrants who cross the border illegally, the latest effort by state Republican leaders to challenge federal authority in matters of immigration.

The state Legislature is expected to pass a resolution Tuesday that would send the measure to Arizona voters for approval in November. The copied resolution mimics Texas Senate Bill 4 and is similar to a bill recently signed into law in Louisiana.

Over the past year, the Iowa and Oklahoma legislatures also passed laws that mirror parts of the controversial Texas law, which is currently being challenged in court. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Tennessee, Florida and Georgia have passed measures to penalize and more easily report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

The constitutionality of laws that closely resemble the Texas law depends on the case before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In this case, opponents argue that Senate Bill 4 is unconstitutional because it usurps federal authority over immigration enforcement. Lone Star leaders have expressed a willingness to challenge the federal government’s supremacy on immigration issues all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Arizona, the ballot proposal is likely to draw opposition from the same groups that helped Democrats win big in 2020 by opposing another controversial immigration bill passed more than a decade ago . The referendum could have broader political implications in a swing state in the upcoming presidential election.

“We believe these types of bills are going to inspire Latino voters to go to the polls and reject not only this proposal, but also the architects of the bill,” said Cesar Fierros, a spokesperson for Living United for Change in Arizona, an immigrant. defense organization. The group is one of several groups that have challenged Arizona’s controversial “Show Me Your Papers” law, or SB 1070. The Supreme Court struck down most of the law’s provisions but upheld the controls of immigration.

As proposed, Arizona’s Secure the Border Act would make illegal border crossings a state crime and allow state judges to order expulsions. It also provides new penalties for any undocumented immigrant who fraudulently receives public benefits, sells fentanyl or works without authorization.

The proposal is a compilation of various border measures rejected by Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, earlier this year. Republicans expect voters to support him.

Republican state Rep. Alexander Kolodin, a lawyer who was sanctioned by the Arizona State Bar for representing plaintiffs in baseless lawsuits challenging the election results, said the ballot measure was a response to the Biden administration’s “failures” to enforce federal law.

“The federal government is the sole regulator of immigration policy set by Congress, affirming that illegal immigration is a crime,” Kolodin said. “Congress declared it a crime. We also believe it is a crime and we simply enable our people to enforce it as well.

Critics say the referendum is a desperate attempt by Republicans to increase voter turnout in an election year that could wipe out their slim majorities in both state chambers. Arizonans may have to pass at least a dozen proposed measures on the ballot. Democrats who oppose the immigration bill fear that voters will unwittingly choose to approve the measure in order to quickly pass an unusually long ballot without understanding the consequences.

Democratic Sen. Flavio Bravo dismissed the referendum effort as a political ploy by Republicans that does nothing to address real problems.

“They are trying to maintain their power and are going to put it on the backs of immigrants,” Bravo said. “This is not about border security.”

The governor, Democrats, Arizona business leaders and some state law enforcement, including those near the border, opposed the bill. Advocates say it will lead to the same type of racial profiling allowed by the 2010 law and will harm families, particularly those where some members are undocumented but others are in the country legally. The fraud measures, for example, could create confusion among parents whose children were born in the United States, who might forgo public benefits even if their children qualify for them, lawmakers said.

State Sen. Ken Bennett, a Republican, had similar concerns. He has pledged not to vote for the spring referendum unless his colleagues remove a provision allowing law enforcement to retroactively apply the law against people like “Dreamers.” This measure, which would have penalized young immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, was later removed from the bill.

He also pushed for amendments that he says will prevent discriminatory behavior by law enforcement.

Under the current proposal, state and local police would have to personally witness a person crossing the border outside a port of entry, view video of it, or obtain some other “constitutionally sufficient” indication that they entered illegally. Probable cause grounds are more vague in Texas, where how immigrants will be identified by law enforcement under SB 4 remains a major point of contention.

Migrants caught illegally crossing southern Arizona will face a misdemeanor charge for the first offense and a felony for subsequent attempts.

“Without a state law, all deputies and border police can do is call the Border Patrol, who are so overwhelmed they can’t get there for hours or even days.” , Bennett said. “It adds a very narrow tool to catch someone in the act. Beyond that, it’s not about arresting people based on a racial profile and asking questions about the draft law on legal presence.

Along the southwest border, Arizona has seen the highest number of border encounters in recent months. Migration routes have moved away from Texas, where crossings have declined significantly since last fall, according to federal data.

State Rep. Oscar De Los Santos, a Democrat, said he still didn’t think the language was clear enough to prevent racial discrimination by law enforcement. He said he had met locally with several anti-immigration activist groups and they were preparing to challenge the measure in court. in hopes of avoiding it being placed on the ballot.

“This really looks like SB 1070 days,” he said.

Republicans included provisions in the bill that would give minority leaders unprecedented authority to defend the law in court in the event they lose control of either chamber in November.

“Typically, the language used is that the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate can intervene in favor of a law,” De Los Santos said. “They’re explicitly putting a whole new provision in there that we’ve never seen before. It’s clear they’re afraid of what could happen in November.”

The proposal requires a simple majority in the State House to pass. A single no vote from a Republican could derail it. The Senate has already given its approval to the bill. An analysis of the state budget indicates that implementing the law would cost more than $300 million at a time when Arizona faces structural budget deficits. The analysis also noted that the state could save money by reducing immigration levels.

Dave Wells, research director at the Grand Canyon Institute, a nonprofit think tank, said several ballot initiatives could lure Democrats to the polls, but it remains to be seen whether that will be enough for them to regain control of the election. he state legislature. The Republican Party has had largely uninterrupted control of the Legislature since the 1960s, and predicted Democratic victories have repeatedly failed to materialize.

The immigration bill could play an important role in pushing voters to the polls, particularly young Latino voters. Republicans represent the largest group of registered voters in the state and are unanimously unhappy about border issues. Disapproval of Democrats’ handling of immigration issues spans the state’s political spectrum.

But independent voters, who make up more than a third of the electorate, are less likely to approve extreme measures or deportation plans, according to Samara Klar, a political scientist at the University of Arizona.

“It’s going to be very close,” Wells said. “Voters have very short memories and a big part of elections these days is about turning your base around.”


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