Updated Apr 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP advances bill legalizing killing undocumented migrants on suspicion of trespassing

A mountain in the background with a car on the desert in the foreground.

A Minutemen volunteer returns to his checkpoint after talking with a U.S. Border Patrol agent on a ranch in the Sonoran Desert in 2006, 45 miles south of Tucson, Arizona. Photo: Jeff Topping/Getty Images

Arizona Republicans are advancing a bill that would allow people to legally kill someone accused of attempting to trespass or actively trespassing on their property.

The big picture: The legislation, which is expected to be vetoed if it reaches the state's Democratic governor, would legalize the murder of undocumented immigrants, who often have to cross ranches that sit on the state's border with Mexico.

  • While the bill does not mention immigrants, state Rep. Justin Heap (R.) said in a committee hearing in February the bill was intended to close a loophole by which migrants have moved within the U.S., per the Arizona Mirror.
  • The bill would modifyArizona's Castle Doctrine, which already allows the use of deadly force against home intruders if deemed necessary for protection.

Context: George Alan Kelly, an Arizona rancher, was accused of killing a migrant, Gabriel Cuen Buitimea, walking through his 170-acre property last year, per the Arizona Republic.

  • His trial began in March, per the AP.

What's inside: "Premises" is defined in the bill to mean any property or structure, "occupied or not."

  • The bill expands the Castle Doctrine from a home intrusion to a home or property intrusion.

Our thought bubble, from Axios Phoenix's Jeremy Duda: If the bill is passed by the state's legislature, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs is expected to veto it.

  • Hobbs flipped the state's governorship blue in 2022, but the GOP controls its legislature.

Zoom out: Americans consider immigration the country's single most important problem for the first time since 2019, according to recent polling.

  • Nationally, infighting, blame-shifting and indecision have challenged the Biden administration's border approach.

Go deeper: Arizona transports 26,000 asylum seekers under Hobbs

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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