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Katie Hobbs kills controversial border bill with first veto of 2024

The Veto Queen struck on Monday, denouncing the bill as a GOP effort to “score cheap political points.”

By Matt Hennie, Phoenix New Times

After a record-shattering 143 vetoes in 2023, Gov. Katie Hobbs dusted off her veto stamp on Monday and delivered her first rejection of a bill in 2024.

The victim? Senate Bill 1231. The Republican-controlled House was so enamored with the bill that it suspended its rules on Wednesday and rushed it to a 31-28 vote a week after its 16-13-1 approval in the Senate.

Hobbs greeted the legislation with a veto.

“The bill does not secure our border, will be harmful for communities and businesses in our state, and burdensome for law enforcement personnel and the state judicial system,” Hobbs said in her veto statement.

“Further, this bill presents significant constitutional concerns and would be certain to mire the State in costly and protracted legislation,” she added.

SB 1231 — titled the “Arizona Border Invasion Act” — allowed local police to arrest migrants suspected of crossing into the state at places other than ports of entry and charge them with a misdemeanor. A first offense carried a jail sentence of up to six months. The bill also shielded law enforcement from civil liabilities

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily halted a nearly identical new law in Texas that also empowered local police to arrest people suspected of crossing the border illegally.

SB 1231 is one of three measures targeting immigration that Republicans are pushing through the legislature. House Bill 2821 is similar to SB 1231, while House Concurrent Resolution 2060 is a ballot measure that would bar undocumented immigrants from obtaining many taxpayer-funded social benefits.

The measures have come under sharp criticism — even from some Republicans — who contend they are an escalation of the state GOP’s war on immigrants without permanent legal status.

In a video statement on Monday, Hobbs dismissed the bills as an effort to “score cheap political points.”

‘Blatantly unconstitutional and extreme’

Republicans blasted Hobbs’ veto, while progressive groups, including the ACLU, praised her action.

State Sen. Janae Shamp, SB 1231’s sponsor, said in a statement from Senate Republicans that the veto “was a slap in the face” to law enforcement.

"The Legislature did its job to protect our citizens, but Governor Hobbs failed to do hers,” Shamp said. “Vetoing the Arizona Border Invasion Act is a prime example of the chaos Hobbs is unleashing in our state while perpetuating this open border crisis as Biden's accomplice.”

“SB 1231 was a blatantly unconstitutional and extreme anti-immigrant measure that would have sent Arizona back to a time when racial profiling ran rampant, and the state’s reputation and economy took a brutal blow,” said Noah Schramm, border policy strategist for the ACLU of Arizona.

“SB 1231 has no place in Arizona where immigrants are our friends, family and neighbors; but rather than protecting Arizona communities, extremist lawmakers are only concerned with inciting hateful divisions,” Schramm added.

Living United for Change in Arizona, a political organization known colloquially as LUCHA, said the veto was a blow to the “Republicans’ hate-filled agenda.”

“SB 1231 doesn’t solve the humanitarian crisis at the border, and it would have inflicted tremendous harm to Arizona communities,” Alejandra Gomez, LUCHA’s executive director, said Monday in a prepared statement. “While Republicans have abandoned morality and democratic principles, today is a reflection of the power of democracy and the power of people when they come together to fight against racism, hate and just plain bad policy.”

Here are all the bills Katie Hobbs vetoed in 2024 (so far)

Will Hobbs break her own veto record? She’s off to a slow start. In 2024, her first veto didn’t happen until March 4. By that point in 2023, Hobbs notched 15 vetoes on her way to 143 for the year.

Senate Bill 1231: Local arrests of migrants

Hobbs’ vetoed the bill on March 4. The measure allowed local police to arrest non-U.S. citizens suspected of illegally crossing the border between Arizona and Mexico even though border enforcement is a federal issue. “This bill presents significant constitutional concerns and would be certain to mire the State in costly and protracted legislation,” Hobbs said in her veto letter.

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