Arizona’s Bold Move: New Law to Seal Off Southern Border Sparks Controversy

a4ndreas /
a4ndreas /

In a move that sounds straight out of a “tough on crime” playbook, the Arizona Senate decided to push forward a proposed ballot measure that would make it a state crime to enter Arizona’s southern border anywhere but an official port of entry.

House Concurrent Resolution 2060 squeaked by on a 16-13 party-line vote. It gives local law enforcement the power to arrest illegal immigrants. State judges under HCR2060 could require illegal immigrants to return to their home countries.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, has criticized the Arizona Senate’s recent approval of HCR2060, warning that it could spell trouble for businesses in the state.

The Arizona Senate Republican Caucus took to the social media platform X to express their view that Democratic legislators, Governor Katie Hobbs, and President Joe Biden are failing Arizona. They believe that HCR2060 acknowledges the concerns of their supporters and are advising that the matter will be on the ballot in November. They stated that voters could grab the reins of border security by voting for the “Secure the Border Act.”

HCR2060, if it becomes law, would allow state judges to order illegal immigrants to return home after serving their prison sentences. A court might even drop charges if the individual agrees to leave voluntarily.

Additionally, the bill allows state agencies to dip into a federal database to verify documents of people applying for public benefits. It also promises harsher penalties for fentanyl dealers.

HCR2060 claims that due to inadequacies in immigration enforcement, there is a significant public safety crisis in Arizona. This crisis is primarily attributed to transnational cartels, which are heavily involved in widespread human trafficking and drug smuggling activities across the southern border of the state.

Arizona’s prisons director warned that a plan to allow local law enforcement to arrest border crossers could significantly strain prison staffing and services. According to a fiscal analysis by the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Re-entry, the prison system is projected to add 1,500 inmates per year at an estimated cost of $250 million over five years.

Governor Hobbs, who already vetoed a similar bill in March, wasted no time slamming the Senate’s passage of HCR2060. She urged the House of Representatives to shut it down, arguing that it could damage Arizona’s business landscape. According to her, the measure is nothing more than a political gimmick that will harm jobs, stigmatize communities, and complicate law enforcement efforts. Hobbs stated on X, “The Senate’s vote to pass HCR2060 is a stunt to score cheap political points.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (also known as ACLU) of Arizona expressed its opposition to the measure, characterizing it as discriminatory against immigrants and cautioning that it has the potential to be unfairly applied to communities of color. They pointed out that the bill ignores federal laws designed to protect asylum seekers, instead paving the way for unlawful policing and racial profiling. According to the ACLU, if the passes, it could be “weaponized” against communities of color.

During the initial four months of fiscal year 2024, information released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) indicated that the Tucson sector, encompassing the majority of Arizona’s southern border, recorded the highest number of border encounters, amounting to over 373,000 incidents.

Governor Hobbs pointed fingers at “Washington’s ongoing failure” to secure the southern border, a failure she said has been brewing for decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations. She vowed not to engage in the “same old political games” that have led to the current crisis. She emphasized that local communities, sheriffs, small business owners, and law enforcement understand the issue far better than those crafting misguided policies in the state Senate.