Arizona to vote on Texas-inspired law allowing state police to arrest migrants

Arizonans will vote on a statewide ballot measure in November to determine whether state police should have authority to arrest people who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, the state legislature decided Tuesday.

The GOP-backed ballot measure is intended to supersede a veto on a similar bill by Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) in March. The state Senate approved the proposal in a 16-13 party-line vote last month, and the House passed it on an even closer 31-29 margin Tuesday.

“I’m an immigrant. This is not anti-immigrant. This is anti-lawlessness,” House Speaker Ben Toma (R) said on the floor Tuesday, casting the final “aye” vote. “It’s about securing our border because the federal government has failed to do their job. The people of Arizona will get the final say in this issue. And I’m proud to send it to them.”

Texas was the first state to pass a bill similarly allowing state police to make border crossing arrests earlier this year. That law marks a major shift in immigration enforcement and has not gone into effect pending legal challenges.

Arizona’s law also allows state judges to order deportations. Under the proposal, a first-time conviction of the border-crossing provision would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

Hobbs warned in her earlier veto of the similar measure that it could cause significant legal costs for the state, and predicted that it could be found to be unconstitutional by courts.

“This bill does not secure our border, will be harmful for communities and businesses in our state, and burdensome for law enforcement personnel and the state judicial system,” Hobbs wrote in her March veto statement.

Federal law already prohibits the unauthorized entry of migrants into the United States. However, Republicans in Arizona and Texas say that the U.S. government is not doing enough and they need additional state powers.

Critics, including Hobbs, have warned that the proposal could increase racial profiling in the state and harken back to Arizona’s controversial 2010 immigration law that allowed police to question people on suspicion of being in the country illegally. That law was later pared back by the Supreme Court for infringing on the federal government’s jurisdiction.

“Business leaders, border law enforcement, and bipartisan local leaders throughout the state who oppose this bill know it will not make us safer, instead it will demonize our communities and lead to racial profiling,” Hobbs said in a statement last month.

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