May 7, 2024 - News

GOP lawmakers moving forward on plan for border ballot measure

Illustration of a length of razor wire over a divided background with elements of ballots on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Senate Republicans are moving forward with a plan to sidestep Gov. Katie Hobbs' veto stamp by putting a tough illegal immigration and border security law on the November ballot.

The big picture: In a year in which illegal immigration and border security are expected to be top issues in the election, Arizona voters may have a chance to weigh in on what would be one of the toughest laws in the country.

Catch up quick: In March, Hobbs vetoed the Arizona Border Invasion Act, which would've made crossing the border without authorization a misdemeanor state crime.

Driving the news: The Senate Committee on Military Affairs, Public Safety and Border Security is scheduled to hear a new proposal, the Secure the Border Act, on Wednesday.

  • In addition to the illegal entry language from the vetoed bill, it requires state and local governments to use federal systems to determine eligibility for noncitizens to apply for public benefits, and it makes using false documents to apply for benefits a class 6 felony.
  • Selling fentanyl would be a class 2 felony if it causes someone's death, punishable by an additional five years in prison.
  • A final Senate vote on the proposal is planned for May 15. If it passes, it would go to the House.
  • Lawmakers don't need the governor's signature to refer a measure to the ballot.

What they're saying: Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) said in a press statement last week that Democrats have shown they're "tone deaf to the realities Arizonans are facing" through their opposition to other border security legislation, "and this will be confirmed when voters have the chance to take matters into their own hands this November."

  • If the courts uphold the Texas law, it would clear the way for Arizona to enforce its version if voters approve it, the press release stated.

Between the lines: House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Glendale) supports the plan and has been working with the Senate, spokesperson Andrew Wilder told Axios.

The other side: "I understand the frustration that leads to legislation like this, but this is the same bill that they sent to me that I vetoed. And it's not going to solve the problem," Hobbs said during a press conference last week.

Flashback: Arizona became the epicenter of the national debate on illegal immigration in 2010 when Republicans passed SB1070.

  • The law required police to check people's immigration status if they had reason to believe they were in the country illegally, and made it a state crime for immigrants to not carry federal immigration documentation.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the law, including the documentation provision, but upheld the section requiring police to carry out immigration checks.

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