Arizona’s Democratic governor vetoes border bill approved by Republican-led Legislature

FILE - Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks to the state Legislature as she delivers the State of the State address in Phoenix, Jan. 8, 2024. On Monday, March 4, Hobbs vetoed a bill approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature that would have made it a crime for noncitizens to enter the state through Mexico at a location other than a port entry. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

FILE – Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks to the state Legislature as she delivers the State of the State address in Phoenix, Jan. 8, 2024. On Monday, March 4, Hobbs vetoed a bill approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature that would have made it a crime for noncitizens to enter the state through Mexico at a location other than a port entry. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona bill that would have made it a crime for noncitizens to enter the state through Mexico at any location other than a port of entry has been vetoed by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs.

The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the measure late last month along party lines. Arizona has emerged as a popular illegal border crossing point, and the bill would have let local law enforcement arrest non-U.S. citizens who enter Arizona from anywhere but a lawful entrance point. A violation would be a top-tier misdemeanor – or a low-level felony for a second offense.

In a letter to Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen on Monday, Hobbs said the measure raised constitutional concerns and was expected to lead to costly litigation.

“This bill does not secure our border, will be harmful for communities and businesses in our state, and burdensome for law enforcement personnel and the state judicial system,” Hobbs wrote.

The move comes as Republicans in several states, most notably Texas, trumpet tough immigration policies in the lead-up to this year’s presidential election.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Janae Shamp, said in a statement that the veto “is a prime example of the chaos Hobbs is unleashing in our state while perpetuating this open border crisis as Biden’s accomplice.”

Federal law already prohibits the unauthorized entry of migrants into the United States. However, Republicans in Arizona and Texas say that the U.S. government is not doing enough and they need additional state powers.

This isn’t the first time Republican lawmakers in Arizona have tried to criminalize migrants who aren’t authorized to be in the country.

When passing its landmark 2010 immigration bill, the Arizona Legislature considered expanding the state’s trespassing law to criminalize the presence of immigrants and imposed criminal penalties.

But the trespassing language was removed and replaced with a requirement that officers, while enforcing other laws, question people’s immigration status if they’re believed to be in the country illegally.

The questioning requirement was ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court despite the racial profiling concerns of critics, but courts barred enforcement of other sections of the law.

The law touched off a national furor with supporters calling for similar legislation for their own states and detractors calling for an economic boycott of Arizona.

Several other Arizona immigration laws have been thrown out by courts over the years.

Another proposal at the Legislature this year would bypass any possible veto by Hobbs by sending the measure straight to voters to decide as a ballot measure.

The proposal would require municipalities and counties that receive state money for welfare programs to use a federal employment verification database to check whether recipients are in the U.S. legally — and if so, the recipients are to be removed from the program.

It also would make it a low-level felony for employers, who are already required by an earlier Arizona law to use the database when hiring new employees, to refuse to carry out their legal duty to use the database when they know an employee is not in the country legally.

The proposal has already cleared the state House. The Arizona Senate hasn’t yet taken any action on the proposal.

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