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Measure that would allow local law enforcement to arrest migrants will appear on Arizona’s November ballot

<i>Gregory Bull/AP/File via CNN Newsource</i><br/>In this July 2023 photo
Gregory Bull/AP/File via CNN Newsource
In this July 2023 photo

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) — Arizona voters will weigh in this fall on a ballot measure that would allow local law enforcement to arrest migrants who illegally cross the southern border if there is “probable cause.”

State lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill that will allow the measure to appear on the November ballot. The bill, known as the Secure the Border Act, passed the Republican-controlled Arizona House by a party-line 31-29 vote.

Arizona will play a key role this election year, as both a battleground state in the presidential race and home to a Senate race that could help determine the balance of power in the US Senate. Immigration has been a central campaign issue for former President Donald Trump and Republicans in the border state and could drive voters to the polls.

If voters approve the measure in November, law enforcement would be enabled to arrest migrants who cross into the US without going through official ports of entry. Judges could order the deportation of those convicted of violating the law.

Under the proposal, a person who enters the US illegally cannot be arrested unless there is “probable cause” – a law enforcement officer has witnessed the violation, there is a recording of the violation or there is “any other constitutionally sufficient” sign of probable cause.

Proponents say the measure would curb illegal immigration and cut down on crime perpetrated by migrants, stepping in where the federal government has failed. Meanwhile, critics argue that the proposal would result in racial profiling and unlawful policing, be costly for the state and strain law enforcement resources.

The proposal is similar to Texas’ controversial immigration law known as SB 4, which has been blocked from going into effect as a legal challenge plays out in court. If Arizona voters approve the ballot measure, the part of the proposal that would allow local law enforcement to make arrests for illegal entry cannot be enforced until the Texas immigration law or another state’s law has been in effect for 60 days.

The Arizona measure would also create criminal offenses for migrants unlawfully in the US who “knowingly” present false documents to receive public benefits or get around the state’s e-verify program. It would increase punishments for fentanyl sales that result in the death of another.

The bill’s final vote in the Arizona legislature fell on the same day that President Joe Biden announced new immigration executive actions that will allow his administration to ban asylum seekers who cross the border illegally.

“When the federal government completely withdraws from its responsibility to enforce the law, then it becomes incumbent on the states to take action on that and enforce it themselves,” Republican state Rep. Justin Heap said in remarks Tuesday on the Arizona House floor.

“I hear my Democratic colleagues concerned about the cost that may accrue in this. Arizona citizens are already paying costs for illegal immigration every day. They pay it in their housing, they pay it in their utility bills, they paid in their grocery bills, their medical care, their insurance and as we’ve heard today, some of them pay for it with their lives, and with the safety of their communities,” he added.

Democrats said the bill hearkens back to the Arizona law, Senate Bill 1070, that was signed into law more than a decade ago and parts of which were struck down the US Supreme Court. The law, which critics called the “show me your papers” law, allowed police to check a person’s immigration status during traffic stops if they had “reasonable suspicion” to think the person was in the US illegally.

“Maricopa County is still paying the price for the last attempt at hateful race-baiting legislation that have now cost taxpayers over $300 million. HCR 2060 will cost us more,” Democratic state Rep. Junelle Cavero said, adding that the bill would create “racial profiling and harassment that will result in lawsuits” and “broken families.”

Republican House Speaker Ben Toma pushed back on the criticism, arguing that there is “no immunity for police discrimination in the bill.”

“The standard in this bill is probable cause, not reasonable suspicion like all the other so-called previous mistakes in other bills,” Toma, the bill’s main sponsor, said on the House floor. “This cannot be honestly referred to as the ‘show me your papers’ bill.”

Republicans also closed the House gallery to the public during proceedings on Tuesday, citing security concerns – a move that prompted further criticism from Democrats.

The bill was amended and passed by the GOP-led Arizona Senate last month also on a party line vote. In referring the issue to voters, Republicans were able to bypass Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, who vetoed a similar immigration bill earlier this year and was opposed to HCR 2060.

After the bill’s passage, Hobbs again spoke out against the measure, saying it will not secure the US southern border.

“Despite strong opposition from business leaders, border law enforcement, and bipartisan local leaders throughout the state, extremists in the legislature have chosen to prioritize their political agendas over finding real solutions,” the governor said in a statement.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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