Arizona senator who wanted amendments to Secure the Border Act explains why he voted ‘yes’

May 23, 2024, 8:00 PM

PHOENIX — The Arizona Senate’s final vote to pass the Secure the Border Act came after almost five hours of intense arguments, protests and even tears on May 22, 2024.

Several Democratic senators quizzed Republican legislators about amendments to the act.

One of the Republicans who spoke in favor of the amended law was Sen. Ken Bennett, who had voiced concerns about a previous version of the law before the Wednesday vote.

“I demanded that we include very specific language,” Bennett told KTAR News 92.3 FM shortly after his vote.

Firstly, he wanted the law to remove mentions of DACA students. Secondly, he also wanted specific language in the bill that would only make illegal border crossing a crime.

“Three, I wanted specific language to make sure that this in no way would be used retroactively to try to identify and or arrest and or deport people who are already here,” Bennett said.

The Senate’s vote to pass the act sends it on its way to the Arizona House. If it passes, it will end up on the Nov. 5 ballot. Then voters will decide if they want to make illegally entering Arizona a state crime.

Arizona senator who wanted amendments says changes prevent racial profiling

Much of the criticism from Democrats came from concerns that the act could cause widespread racial profiling across Arizona.

However, the law will only apply to people who illegally cross the border after the law goes into effect, Bennett said. He even read part of the law on-air to prove his point.

“This section … shall not be construed to apply to the conduct of any person who entered this state unlawfully from a foreign nation at any time before this section becomes enforceable,” Bennett said.

Law enforcement wouldn’t be able to use the act as a justification for harassing residents on their immigration status, he added.

Furthermore, undocumented migrants currently residing in Arizona won’t be punished under the new act because the law won’t apply to them, Bennett said.

“If you’re in Arizona illegally already before this bill takes effect … until that time and after that time, no one in Arizona can be stopped, arrested, detained or otherwise dealt with by law enforcement,” he said.

If passed, when would Arizona’s Secure the Border Act take effect?

Bennett said that, if voters pass the act in the general election, the legislation still might not be a sure thing.

“It is conditioned on whether the Supreme Court rules that the similar bill in Texas, SB4, is constitutional,” he said. “So it’s probably a year or two before this bill would even be enforceable.”

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Arizona senator who wanted amendments to Secure the Border Act explains why he voted ‘yes’