Arizona sheriffs concerned about unfunded mandates in Secure the Border Act

Jun 5, 2024, 12:08 PM | Updated: 2:00 pm

Split image of a Cochise County Sheriff's Office vehicle on the left and a Yavapai County Sheriff's...

Some Arizona sheriffs are expressing concerns about unfunded mandates in the Secure the Border Act. (Facebook Photos/Cochise County Sheriff's Office - Mark J. Dannels Sheriff and Yavapai County Sheriff's Office)

(Facebook Photos/Cochise County Sheriff's Office - Mark J. Dannels Sheriff and Yavapai County Sheriff's Office)

PHOENIX – Some Arizona sheriffs are expressing concern about unfunded mandates in the Secure the Border Act, but a top Republican lawmaker says they shouldn’t be worried.

If voters approve the measure, aka HCR2060, it would be a state crime for noncitizens to enter Arizona through Mexico at any location other than a port of entry.

The Secure the Border Act also would make selling fentanyl that leads to a person’s death a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and it has a provision requiring some government agencies use the federal E-Verify database to confirm a noncitizen’s eligibility for benefits.

However, it’s the illegal entry portion of the proposal that has been controversial, with opponents likening 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.

HCR2060 would empower state and local law enforcement, including county sheriff’s departments, to arrest people caught crossing into Arizona from Mexico illegally.

The measure, in part, was modeled off a Texas law that is facing legal challenges. The Secure the Border Act has a clause saying the border crossing element can only go into effect if the courts approve Texas’ SB4.

Why are Arizona sheriffs worried about Secure the Border Act funding?

Aside from the legal issues that could arise, there is no mechanism to cover the cost of monitoring the border and housing inmates arrested for illegal crossings.

“Our main concern is that this ballot initiative contains no funding for local law enforcement, and there’s no funding appropriated, and there’s been no funding designated,” Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes, president of the Arizona Sheriff’s Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels echoed Rhodes’ concerns about funding, even though he supports the contents of the Secure the Border Act.

“We understand the frustration, the intent and the spirit behind the bill, we truly do. And we believe the state’s going to pass it,” Dannels told KTAR News’ Arizona’s Morning News on Wednesday. “Here’s the thing, and this is why we’re putting people on notice: This is an unfunded mandate for sheriffs and law enforcement.”

Rhodes called on Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, and the Republican-led Legislature, which passed HCR2060 on a party-line vote, to step up and provide funding if voters approve the measure.

“You need to honor the will of the majority and you need to put adequate resources to do this because the people in the state are telling you they’re sick to death of this issue and they want action on it. That’s what this is all about,” the Yavapai County sheriff said.

House speaker says funding will be addressed when necessary

However, House Speaker Ben Toma said there’s no reason to address funding until voters pass the measure and the courts give Texas’ SB4 the green light.

“For us to appropriate something before something actually happens doesn’t make any sense,” he told The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

Further, Toma assured the sheriffs that funding won’t be a problem if it gets to that point.

“What I would say is this: The resources are there. The will is there from the Republican caucus to ensure that the sheriffs have whatever tools they need to actually get this done, and this is intended to be another tool in the toolbox,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona sheriffs concerned about unfunded mandates in Secure the Border Act