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AZ leaders and businesses speak out against immigration proposal

Rep. Ben Toma, R-Peoria, Speaker of the Arizona House, has introduced legislation with hopes to curtail illegal immigration and save Arizonans big in welfare benefits but a coalition of business leaders and Democratic lawmakers are speaking out, saying it will hurt the state economy.

By Alex Gonzales, Public News Service

Businesses in the state already use the federal E-Verify program to check the immigration status of potential and current employees. If referred to the ballot in November, House Concurrent Resolution 2060 would expand verification regulations for businesses to check the status of independent subcontractors and make it harder for migrants to access public benefits.

Alejandra Gomez, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, said the proposed law has parallels with Senate Bill 1070, a controversial immigration law passed in 2010 which she argued led to racial profiling.

"We are not the Arizona of 2010," Gomez asserted. "We are the Arizona of 2024, and this coalition is a powerful coalition and we will not stand for the division and for the hate."

Toma argues action has to be taken to address the influx of illegal crossings into Arizona. Immigration activists say they are prepared to battle it out at the ballot box if the Arizona GOP manages to successfully put the measure on the ballot. Voters could have the final say, as Republicans can bypass Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, who cannot weigh in on the ballot referral.

José Rivera, owner of the Tres Leches Café in Phoenix, contends the Latino community is under attack. Rivera said as a first-generation Mexican American business owner, he is "deeply troubled" by the proposed legislation.

"This bill threatens not only to impose crippling fines on businesses but also sends a chilling message to the immigrant entrepreneurs like myself and immigrant workers that we are not welcome," Rivera stressed.

Rivera emphasized initiatives like the new bill will continue to criminalize and marginalize immigrant communities and stifle the entrepreneurial spirit he said defines the American dream.

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