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Arizona voters to decide if police can arrest migrants suspected of crossing the border illegally

A new measure being added to the November ballot could classify the act of crossing the border illegally as a state crime.
Arizona Border
Posted at 1:27 PM, Jun 05, 2024

Arizona voters will now decide on a ballot measure that could allow local law enforcement to arrest people suspected of illegally crossing the border and give local judges the power to issue deportation orders.

The Arizona House voted Tuesday to put the measure on the general election ballot in November. Republicans have a one-vote majority in the chamber, and the measure passed along party lines.

If approved by voters, HCR 2060 would make it a state crime to cross the Arizona-Mexico border outside of official ports of entry. Local law enforcement agencies would be able to make arrests, and local judges would be allowed to order those convicted to leave the country.

Scripps News Phoenix reporter Javier Soto speaks with a resident of Douglas, Arizona.

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The Arizona Senate passed the measure on May 22 after amending it to specify that law enforcement must have probable cause — such as witnessing a crossing or having video evidence — to make an arrest. And the border-crossing provision will not apply to anyone who crosses the border without authorization before the law takes effect.

The proposal is based on a Texas law that similarly makes it a state crime to enter that state illegally. However, an appeals court has blocked implementation of the Texas law while lawsuits filed by the U.S. government and the ACLU are being heard.

The border-crossing provisions of Arizona's HCR 2060 are dependent on the state of Texas prevailing in those cases. If passed by Arizona voters, those sections would become enforceable 60 days after the Texas law takes effect.

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HCR 2060 was introduced on May 8 as a strike-everything amendment to a previously proposed ballot measure that would have greatly expanded Arizona’s laws around E-Verify, a federal database that checks employment eligibility.

In addition to making illegal border crossings a state offense, HCR 2060 includes provisions that make it a crime to submit false paperwork to state and local agencies when applying for public benefits or to an employer and strengthen the penalty for fentanyl sales in cases in which someone has died.

Backers of the ballot measure say it is a border enforcement measure that won’t be enforced statewide. Opponents say it does not include any geographic restrictions tied to the border.

Critics have compared HCR 2060 to another law commonly known as the “Show Me Your Papers” law. Much of that 2010 Arizona law was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court because it conflicted with federal law.

This story was originally published by Manuelita Beck at Scripps News Phoenix.