Arizona moves closer to making illegal immigration a state crime

Arizona lawmakers approved a ballot measure on Tuesday that will allow voters to decide whether illegal immigration should be made a state crime. 

The so-called “Secure the Border Act” would make illegally entering Arizona from Mexico a criminal offense, which would allow local police to arrest and jail migrants suspected of crossing the border between ports of entry and authorize state judges to deport them if convicted. 

The measure, which passed Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature along party lines, will be placed on November ballots in a presidential election year that will see Joe Biden square off against Donald Trump in the key swing state. 

If passed, the ballot measure would allow local police to arrest migrants who enter the country illegally and authorize state judges to deport them. James Breeden for New York Post

“Nothing good comes from open borders,” Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma said in a statement. “Only crime, deadly drugs, violence, unsafe communities, and an unending financial drain on American taxpayers. Yet, Democrat leaders fiercely oppose doing anything about it.

“Arizonans have had enough and want change. They want safe communities and a secure border. House Republicans do too,” he added.

“That’s why we crafted HCR 2060, the Secure the Border Act, a ballot referral with meaningful reforms to protect the integrity of Arizona’s workforce, strengthen criminal laws, and reinforce the rule of law in this state. Today’s final passage sends this Act to the ballot this November, so the will of Arizona voters is heard.” 

Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed similar legislation in March. 

Republicans in the statehouse used a provision that allows them to place the measure directly on the ballot to bypass another likely Hobbs veto.

The measure, which passed Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature along party lines, will be placed on November ballots. James Keivom

The governor denounced HCR 2060 last month after it passed in the GOP-controlled state Senate, arguing that it would “kill jobs, hurt businesses and prevent law enforcement from stopping dangerous crimes.”

“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. 

Federal authorities have encountered more than 412,000 migrants illegally crossing between ports of entry in Arizona’s Yuma and Tucson sectors in the current fiscal year, data from Customs and Border Protection shows. 

Democratic state Sen. Mitzi Epstein opposed the measure when it passed the state Senate last month. AP

The Tucson sector’s 373,000 encounters in fiscal year 2024 are higher than in any of the eight other sectors monitored by Border Patrol agents. 

The Biden administration has sued Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma to stop the enforcement of laws similar to the Arizona measure, arguing that they are unconstitutional because they encroach on the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate noncitizens’ entry and reentry into the US.

The ballot measure was approved on the same day Biden, 81, announced an executive order that officials say will shut down the US-Mexico border if illegal crossings top 2,500 per day for seven consecutive days, but would lift those restrictions two weeks after daily crossings average 1,500 per day for seven days. 

Trump, 77, leads Biden in Arizona by 4 percentage points, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls.

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