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'SB 1070 2.0': Arizona Republicans want to make illegal immigration a state crime

Updated: Feb 20

A joint legislative bill making its way through the Arizona Legislature aims to make illegal immigration a state crime, bypassing federal judicial processes and authorizing local and state police to enforce federal immigration law — a proposed legislation that has received strong opposition as critics say it mirrors what once was Senate Bill 1070, the controversial "show me your papers" law.

By Silvia Solis, Arizona Republic

The Arizona Invasion Act (House Bill 2748, SB 1231), introduced by Republicans Sen. Janae Shamp and Rep. Joseph Chaplik, would classify the crossing of undocumented immigrants outside of a legal port of entry at the southern Arizona border as a state crime, would allow local judges to decide immigration cases and would provide civil immunity to local agents for damages resulting from actions taken during enforcement of this law.

The bills await review from the Rules Committee in both the House and Senate before being heard on the floor of both legislative bodies.

On Monday, Chaplik said the proposed joint legislation comes as southern Arizona has seen an uptick in migrant encounters and would support law enforcement efforts in border towns, as he championed his bill before the Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee.

"This bill would enable Arizona to defend itself at the border," Chaplik said.

A week earlier, Shamp defended the same proposal before the Military Affairs, Public Safety and Border Security Committee, saying, "We are in the thick of an invasion," and arguing the need to take action at the state level to protect the border given the lack of attention to the issue from Congress and the Biden administration.

“We are sitting at a situation where the state (of Arizona) has got to do something in order to protect its citizens. That is how the constitution is written and it's time that we actually utilize that,” Shamp said.

Data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection indicates that border agents registered more than 302,000 encounters during December 2023, including apprehensions and expulsions.

This wave of immigration prompted the closure of the Lukeville Port of Entry late last year for more than a month, a situation that has contributed to political discourse on immigration issues in other border states and at the federal level.

Opponents decry 'SB 1070 2.0'

Critics have said this proposed legislation would mark a return to Arizona's SB 1070 signed in 2010, the most extensive and strictest anti-immigrant law in the United States at the time. The law required immigrants of legal age to carry their immigration status documents with them at all times and allowed apprehension and arrest by local agents if there was suspicion of their illegality in the country.

“Make no mistake, this bill is 'SB 1070 2.0', a redux of the dark days in Arizona," Alejandra Gomez, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona, said in a statement. "Immigrant families are far too familiar with the days of SB 1070 where raids and families being torn apart were a part of daily life in our state.”

On Wednesday, Democratic state Sens. Anna Hernández and Eva Burch, who voted against the bill before the Senate committee, made similar arguments, extolling the potential for civil and human rights abuses as a result of the new proposal, with events similar to those that occurred more than a decade ago.

“As someone who was born and raised in Phoenix, I distinctly remember the days of SB 1070 and reading this language (in the bill) brings back a lot of the thoughts and feelings of what that was when that was enacted,” Hernandez said during the committee session. “The reality is that this bill does open the door to racial profiling and we can all remember what SB 1070 cost the state of Arizona from an economic impact.”

Marylin Rodriguez, with the American Civil Rights Union of Arizona, also expressed the fear of returning to those days.

“In the past, we have seen Arizonans stopped by police because of their skin color or the languages they speak, family members arrested by local police because they can't prove their immigration status, mixed-status families reluctant to call the police when they are victimized due to the threat of detainment or deportation,” Rodriguez told the Senate committee. “The division and anger that sprang from that period are still with us today.”

Poder Latinx Executive Director Yadira Sánchez told The Arizona Republic/La Voz in an email that immigration issues require a federal response, “not a state-level imitation of past unconstitutional efforts like SB 1070. Let us prioritize constructive dialogue with lawmakers in Washington, calling for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform that uplifts our entire community, including the 11 million immigrants vital to the progress of our nation.”

According to Sanchez, the bill could exacerbate the crisis at the border and delay the advancement of humane and lasting solutions for the immigration and asylum systems that include beneficiaries of Deferred Action Consideration for Childhood Arrivals and refugees.

A similar approach to Texas

The Arizona Invasion Act has received overwhelming Republican support. State senators in favor argued Wednesday that the arrival of migrants to the border has contributed to the increase in organized crime, affecting security in cities and putting disproportionate pressure on state systems.

This move has drawn a stark comparison to the recently enacted SB 4 in Texas, as Gov. Greg Abbott continues to take immigration issues into the state's hands.

A nearly 50-acre site in Eagle Pass, Texas, saw an exorbitant increase in migrant crossings over the past year that culminated in occupation by the Texas National Guard in January, transforming the area into a high-security military outpost.

The move is one of several applications of the new law that makes illegal immigration a state crime, which faces several lawsuits contesting its constitutionality.

According to Customs and Border Protection data, border ports of entry in California and Arizona have seen a significant increase in encounters and apprehensions by immigration agents between December 2023 and January 2024, with Yuma leading the way with an increase of more than 260%.

As the proposal continues through the Arizona Legislature, Republican senators at the federal level blocked a legislative package last week that sought immigration control measures to mitigate the current crisis at the border along with support for Ukraine and Israel.

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