Immigration measure added to Arizona ballot

Arizona’s Republican senator voted Tuesday to put a measure before voters in November that would make illegal border crossings from Mexico a state crime. The proposal would give local police officers the power to arrest and detain non-migrants, and allow state judges to order deportations.

While immigration is a focus of campaigns across the country, the measure in Arizona is significant because it puts the border crisis directly on the ballot in a swing state considered crucial in the presidential race.

Republicans are betting it will inflame anti-immigration conservatives and attract otherwise unenthusiastic independents. And it could face a potentially crowded ballot, along with another measure protecting abortion rights, which Democrats hope will bring more voters to their side.

The measure was adopted by 31 votes to 29 along party lines. In their speeches, Democrats called the immigration measure ineffective and racist, likely to break up families and damage the state’s economy and reputation. Republicans focused on overdose deaths and migrants accused of murder, and called the vote a necessary response to an uncontrolled “invasion.”

“The federal government has lost control,” said Republican Rep. John Gillette. “We have to act.”

Outside the Capitol, immigrant rights supporters held signs saying “No Hate” and shouted their opposition in a last-ditch effort to pressure attendees to overturn the measure, saying it would break up families and sow fear in immigrant communities.

But the viewing gallery inside the Arizona House was silent and empty. Republican leaders took the unusual step of closing it, citing the risk of disruption. Democrats accused Republicans of hiding from the public.

If voters pass the border control measure in November, it would mark a sharp turnaround for a state that has moderated its approach to immigration since the days when Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio conducted raids and enforcement that critics called racial profiling. .

In recent years, Arizona voters have approved in-state tuition for undocumented students and rejected immigration hardliners like Mr. Arpaio, ousted in 2016, and the Former President Donald J. Trump.

But Republicans say they believe voters are ready to accept their new crackdown because they are tired of seeing thousands of migrants camped along the border wall and the rising number of deaths from fentanyl smuggled across the border.

A record number of migrant crossings has angered Democratic leaders and voters in cities like New York and Chicago, as well as Republicans, and become a major liability to President Biden’s re-election. On Tuesday, Mr. Biden issued an executive order that would allow him to close the border in the event of a sharp rise.

Opponents say the Arizona ballot measure will do nothing to improve border security or stop asylum seekers from arriving. Instead, they say, it will replicate the paranoia and unrest that Latino and immigrant communities experienced after the governor. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, a controversial state immigration enforcement law passed by Republicans in 2010. The measure, known as the “show me your papers law,” sparked years protests and litigation, and has since been partially canceled. down.

Arizona’s new ballot measure is similar to laws passed by Republicans in Texas and Iowa that challenged the federal government’s exclusive power to enforce immigration laws. The Biden administration sued to block the Texas and Iowa laws, calling them unconstitutional.

Politicians on both sides have said they expect the Arizona bill to face legal challenges if voters pass it. Governor. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, denounced the effort, but she does not have a veto to prevent Republicans from sending the measure directly to voters.

The measure, which would require a simple majority of voters to pass, is called the Secure Borders Act. Along with the law enforcement provisions, it would also increase prison sentences for anyone selling fentanyl resulting in a fatal overdose, and make it a state crime for undocumented workers to provide false information to the E-Verify screening system.

“It would definitely help attract Republican voters,” said Mark Lamb, a cowboy-hatted sheriff from a conservative county south of Phoenix and a candidate in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. He expressed concern about the cost of the measure, but said he would vote for it.

Democratic activists said the immigration measure could backfire by sparking a wave of opposition from Latino voters and suburban moderates worried about damage to immigrant families as well as the reputation and to the Arizona economy.

Arizona’s population is 32 percent Latino, and many voters still have burning memories of SB 1070.

On a recent 100-degree Saturday, dozens of Latinos opposed to the measure gathered on the lawn in front of the state Capitol to swap stories about how they had lived in fear and paranoia under the SB 1070 and had seen immigration agents at their front door. Proposing their children under umbrellas and olive trees, they chanted the old farm workers union slogan “Sí se puede” – “Yes, we can” – and urged their neighbors to start organizing to register voters and to cause the vote to fail.

“We are strongly opposed to it,” said Nieves Riedel, the mayor of San Luis, a small Arizona city located directly along the border wall. She said the city’s police force was already short 57 officers and could not handle the cost and time it would take to arrest hundreds of migrants. Sheriffs and prosecutors say local courts and jails would be overwhelmed.

“There’s not much we can do,” Ms. Riedel said. “Our police officers and women are not federal agents. They are not trained. What will happen to our safety and security if they act like Border Patrol agents? »

Mark Dannels, the sheriff of conservative Cochise County, has been one of Mr. Biden’s most vocal critics along the border, but he said the border security measure would amount to little more than a giant new job for its agents without providing new funds.

“How the hell are we going to do this?” he said. “We don’t have the budget. We don’t have the resources. »

But conservative border ranchers like Fred Davis said Arizona needs to do something. He often sees law enforcement agents chasing suspected human traffickers on the highway that runs through his ranch near Tombstone, and he regularly calls the Border Patrol to report migrants emerging from the desert waters and brush thick trees near his property.

The Republican proposed that the proposed law would allow the local sheriff to charge migrants like those who entered illegally — a misdemeanor for a first offense and a felony punishable by several years in prison for anyone already convicted of entry illegal.

“Given the lack of enforcement at the border, I think this is a problem the state needs to address,” said Sen. Ken Bennett, a Republican who voted for the measure.

He said the law was narrowly focused on border control and would require police to witness a person crossing the border or have a recording to make an arrest.

“That doesn’t stop someone from traveling hundreds of miles within the state,” Bennett said. “You have to see them with your own eyes or have technological proof.”

But immigrant rights activists said another provision of the law allowing “other constitutionally sufficient probable cause” would give law enforcement officers carte blanche to arrest immigrants anywhere in Arizona.

Immigrant activists are already mobilizing against the measure, but said they fear it could easily pass in a state where many voters are unhappy with the influx of migrants.

Irayda Flores, a Phoenix seafood importer who was born in Mexico, said she spent years fearing losing her legal status as she fought to obtain permanent residency. Today, she says, she is disheartened that her immigrant employees or her son might face the same fears.

“We are going back” to a worse time, she said. “The immigrant community, we pay taxes, we bring a lot to the table. And they treat us like criminals.

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