Arizona GOP lawmakers moving to put Secure the Border Act on ballot in November

May 9, 2024, 12:00 PM | Updated: 2:10 pm

Immigrants burn fires to stay warm while waiting with other migrants to be transported from the U.S...

Immigrants burn fires to stay warm while waiting with other migrants to be transported from the U.S.-Mexico border on Dec. 6, 2023, in Lukeville, Arizona. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona voters will likely have the final say on the Secure the Border Act, a Republican proposal drawing staunch opposition from Democrats.

GOP lawmakers are working to pass a resolution, HCR2060, to put the proposed measure on the November ballot.

“The Secure the Border Act reflects a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to combating illegal immigration, which is a top priority for the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, and a leading concern for voters of all parties,” Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma said in a statement Tuesday.

The Legislature can send a measure to voters by passing a resolution without the governor’s signature. Republicans hold the majority in both chambers, so they can make the Secure the Border Act a voter initiative without bipartisan support.

The state Senate held a hearing on the proposal Wednesday. Both sides have been holding press conferences and issuing statements defending their positions this week.

What is the Secure the Border Act?

The Secure the Border Act would make it unlawful for a migrant without legal status to enter Arizona outside a port of entry. To enforce it, state courts would be given the authority to deport migrants convicted of illegal entry.

The measure also would establish stricter penalties for selling fentanyl and for falsifying documents while applying for public benefits or employment.

The unlawful entry section was modeled after a Texas law known as SB4 that is currently on hold while it faces challenges in court. Arizona’s version has a provision that would prevent the section from being enforced if the Texas immigration law is ruled unconstitutional or remains in legal limbo.

Arizona sheriff supports GOP border proposal but has concerns

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate this year, discussed HCR2060 with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

Lamb said he supports the resolution, although he wishes lawmakers would have sought input from sheriffs while crafting it.

“We would have brought some very valuable information to the table,” he said. “We can avoid some pitfalls and make sure that the bill is just right — not just for the people of Arizona, but a bill that we can absolutely enforce and we have the ability to enforce and we have the resources to make sure that we can enforce it.”

Why do Arizona Democrats oppose Secure the Border Act?

Democratic leaders, including Gov. Katie Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes, have come out against the Secure the Border Act.

They liken it to SB1070, Arizona’s controversial “show-me-your-papers” law that was partially struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court after being passed in 2010.

“Further straining law enforcement resources while implementing a measure that could very well lead to racial profiling is not the answer to creating safer communities, not to mention the havoc and harm it would do to our economy, as we saw 14 years ago with the passage of SB1070,” Mayes said in a statement Thursday.

Hobbs, meanwhile, has already vetoed legislation Republicans are trying to revive in HCR2060.

“The bill I vetoed earlier this year lacked support from businesses, farmers and law enforcement in border communities,” Hobbs said in a statement Wednesday. “This ballot initiative won’t secure our border. Instead, it will put Arizona entrepreneurs out of business, kill jobs and prevent law enforcement from keeping our communities safe.”

Where both parties find common ground

Both sides of the issue agree on one thing: The federal government is falling short on the issue of border security.

“I appreciate my Republican colleagues’ strong commitment to addressing the willful neglect of our federal government and referring the Secure the Border Act to the people of Arizona,” Toma said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton joined 14 other Democrats in sending a letter urging President Joe Biden to take more action to secure the border.

In addition, Hobbs has called out the Biden administration over the issue on multiple occasions, including this week.

“Nobody is more frustrated than me at the federal government’s failure to secure our border,” she said.

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Arizona GOP lawmakers moving to put Secure the Border Act on ballot in November