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Arizona Senate advances measure allowing local, state police to arrest migrants illegally crossing border

Arizona senators passed a proposed ballot measure on Wednesday that would give local and state police the power to arrest people entering the state illegally via its border with Mexico.

Arizona senators narrowly approved a proposed ballot measure on Wednesday that would give local law enforcement the authority to arrest people who illegally cross the US-Mexico border into the state.

The proposal, which passed along party lines by a 16-13 vote, would make it a state crime for illegal migrants to enter Arizona from Mexico at any location other than a port of entry – therefore allowing local and state police to arrest them.

It would also allow state judges to send those convicted of the crime, which would be punishable by up to six months in jail for the first offense, back to their country of origin after completing their sentence. Judges could also dismiss a pending charge if the person agrees to return to their home country.


While it is already illegal at the federal level to make unauthorized entry into the U.S., supporters of the measure said Arizona should be able to deal with the crime itself because the federal government isn't stopping the increase in crossings.

"Democrat legislators, Katie Hobbs and Joe Biden are failing Arizona. We share your concern. You will have the opportunity to take border security matters into your own hands this November with the Secure the Border Act," the Arizona Senate GOP posted on its X account on Wednesday.

Supporters also said some of the illegal migrants entering Arizona commit identity theft and take advantage of public benefits.

Opponents believe the proposal, if passed, would hurt Arizona businesses, burden law enforcement and lead to racial profiling of illegal migrants and American citizens.

"HCR2060 will kill-jobs(sic), make it harder for law enforcement to keep us safe and will vilify communities of color," Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs said in a statement earlier this month. "We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure a safe, secure & humane environment at the border to fix the crisis on our hands, but this referral is not the answer."


A slightly different version of the proposal stalled last week after Republican Sen. Ken Bennett raised concerns over a provision targeting recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which prevents deportation for thousands who arrived in the U.S. as a child.

The earlier version of the proposal would have made DACA recipients subject to prosecution if their protections from deportation were later canceled or deemed unlawful.

That provision was cut from the measure approved on Wednesday and language was added to clarify that the law wouldn't apply to migrants illegally in Arizona prior to its enforcement.

"I know this is not perfect, but this is a vast improvement of where it was a week ago," Bennett said.

The measure now advances to the Republican-controlled House.

If approved by the state legislature as a whole, it will bypass Hobbs – who vetoed a similar proposal in March – and be decided upon by Arizona voters on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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