Republican Senator’s Objections Delay Passage of Arizona Border Security Bill

Republican Senator’s Objections Delay Passage of Arizona Border Security Bill
Illegal immigrants are transported by bus to processing facilities in Yuma, Ariz., on May 18, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The progress of a Republican-supported border security bill in the Arizona Senate that would allow law enforcement to arrest illegal aliens and reduce incentives for illegal border crossings has stalled due to concerns regarding some of its provisions.

HCR 2060, also known as the Secure Border Act, gives law enforcement the power to arrest immigrants who do not enter Arizona’s southern border through official ports of entry.

It would create criminal offenses for a person who knowingly gives false documents to get benefits or to evade workplace eligibility detection, as was observed in many cases with illegal aliens.

The bill had initially passed two committee votes by the House of Representatives in February, namely, in the Committee of Appropriations and the Committee of Rules.

On May 9, it was approved by two Senate committees with a small margin, but it stalled on May 14 over the concerns of Republican senator Ken Bennett.

Mr. Bennett told Capitol Media Services that he objected to the bill due to its turning certain violations of the law into felonies which could result in jail time. In addition, he was concerned that individuals under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program could face deportation if the bill is finally passed.

Mr. Bennett said the bill also has flawed language in relation to where illegal immigrants would be returned to upon being expelled. Capitol Media Services added that Mr. Bennett said if the changes he wants are made, he can support the measure.

For it to be finally enacted, it has to clear the Legislature and then be signed into law by the governor, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who denied an earlier version of HCR 2060 in March.

A May 15 media release from Ms. Hobbs’ office described those supporting HCR 2060 in the Legislature as “extremists”, saying that business leaders and law enforcement officials in the state “are sounding the alarm” over the measure.

Flood Of Migrants Overwhelms Arizona Border Crossings
Illegal immigrants arrive at a remote U.S. Border Patrol processing center in Lukeville, Ariz., after crossing the U.S.–Mexico border on Dec. 7, 2023. (John Moore/Getty Images)

The law would also strengthen existing laws that require documentation of lawful presence in the United States in order to receive public benefits. This is done by requiring agencies to use Arizona’s “systematic alien verification for entitlement program” to verify benefit eligibility for non-citizens.

Lastly, the proposed law would also increase punishment for fentanyl dealers by five years.

Its text says that there is a weakness in law enforcement and a public safety crisis in Arizona caused by “transnational cartels engaging in rampant human trafficking and drug smuggling” across Arizona’s southern border.

According to the text, from 2021 to 2023, law enforcement arrested 7 million illegal immigrants and encountered two more million “gotaways”—illegal border-crossers who were spotted but evaded law enforcement. During these two years, law enforcement on the southwest border arrested almost 300 people on the terrorist watch list who had entered between ports of entry. This was a 3,000 percent increase over the prior three years when only nine such individuals were arrested.

Also, over 400 unaccompanied minors were encountered, most of whom become victims of human trafficking, according to lawmakers.

The amount of fentanyl seized at the border has almost tripled since 2016.

“In 2022, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported that illicit fentanyl is primarily responsible for an increasing number of overdose deaths in Arizona,” according to the lawmakers.

The state’s drug crisis needs to be addressed through comprehensive and collaborative approaches, they say.

NTD Photo
A section of the United States border wall in Yuma, Ariz., on May 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The lawmakers believe that many illegal immigrants are enticed by the cartels with the idea of getting benefits when they can make it to the United States.

Human smuggling is a “gateway crime for additional offenses, including identity theft, document fraud and benefit fraud, harming Arizona taxpayers.”

An illegal workforce is also being created through the illegal migrant crisis that goes against fair competition.

“Unchecked and unauthorized employment causes economic hardship to Arizona workers who may face unfair labor competition, wage suppression and reduced working conditions or opportunities,” the bill says.

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