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Controversial immigration resolution to go to Arizona voters

Critics of the House Concurrent Resolution aimed at stopping illegal border crossings say it will encourage police to rely on racial profiling to make arrests.


By Joe Duhownik, Courthouse News


PHOENIX (CN) — Arizona’s House of Representatives gave the final push to a controversial voter resolution that would establish illegal border entry as a state crime. 


Critics say the concurrent resolution, if supported by voters in November, would violate the U.S. Constitution and encourage local police to rely on racial profiling to enforce. 


The resolution passed on a party-line vote, 31-29, with Republicans in favor. Rather than go to the governor, who would most likely veto the measure, the resolution will be sent to the general election ballot in November for a vote.


House Speaker Ben Toma said after the vote that he’s unsure what the campaign to encourage voters to support the measure will look like, but “there will be an effort.”


“It’s a very divided year given all the partisanship that happens, but when you’re talking to average voters, they understand this is actually a border security issue first and foremost and a border security bill more than it is an immigration bill,” Toma said. 


In addition to making federal border crossing laws legal at the state level, House Concurrent Resolution 2060, sponsored by Toma, would make it a state crime to submit false citizenship or employment documents to a state agency or employer, and establish “lethal sale of fentanyl” as a state felony. 


Democrats say the broad range of actions the provision proposes violates the single-subject provision of the state constitution, but Toma, a Republican from Peoria, said that won’t be an issue. Republicans in both the House and the Senate repeatedly link the state’s fentanyl crisis to immigration, even though most fentanyl in the U.S. is trafficked by U.S. citizens, not immigrants. 


Opponents say the resolution will encourage police to rely on racial profiling because, aside from witnessing a crossing firsthand, an officer wouldn’t have probable cause to assume one crossed the border outside a legal port of entry. 

They also say it would violate the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution by enforcing federal laws at the state level. The resolution language is based on a bill recently passed by the Texas Legislature, which is now caught up in federal court fighting the same claims. If passed by voters, Arizona’s resolution will only take effect if Texas’ bill survives federal court. 


Democrats said Tuesday that the job of policing the border should be left to the federal government. 


Republican state Representative John Gillette agreed that the federal government should be doing more.


“But is the federal government doing its job?” he asked. “Absolutely not.”


He chided Democrats for downplaying the humanitarian crisis on the border while not going down to visit themselves.


Republican state Representative Teresa Martinez of Casa Grande described the violence and exploitation those crossing the border often face, calling it “a dangerous place.” State Representative Matt Gress, a Republican from Phoenix, added that in the last year, 194 people apprehended at the border were found to be on the U.S. terrorist watch list. 


"How many more women and children must be sex trafficked?” Gress asked.

“House Concurrent Resolution 2060 gives us the opportunity to make a change.”

House Democrats repeatedly called the measure an “unfunded mandate” that would require a huge increase in resources that most sheriff’s departments and city police agencies don’t have. 


“I stand with local police asking where is the funding for this?” Democratic state Representative Judy Schwiebert said.


Republicans dismissed the concern, saying any amount of money is enough to end the violence they say stems from permissive border policy. While explaining their votes, Republicans rattled off violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to drive their point home. Yet most research suggests that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than U.S. citizens


Activists with the nonprofit Living United for Change in Arizona were noticeably absent from Tuesday’s floor session — they have been present for each action taken on the resolution so far, but House Republicans decided to close the gallery to the public in response to a loud interruption in the Senate two weeks ago protesting the vote on this same resolution. 


“Due to security concerns prompted by the shameful and illegally disruptive conduct by Democrats and their leftist allies, the House gallery is not open today,” House Republicans posted on X, formerly Twitter, as the floor session was called into order. 


Democrats unsuccessfully motioned to overturn the ruling and open the gallery.

“This is the people’s House,” Democratic state Representative Analise Ortiz said in protest. “It’s hypocritical to start each day with ‘welcome to your House’ and then not allow people in.”


Members of the public were allowed to watch the floor session on televisions in various committee hearing rooms.


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