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State Representative Ben Toma speaking with attendees at an event titled "Arizona Talks: Criminal Justice" hosted by Arizona Talks at the First Baptist Church of Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona.
State Representative Ben Toma speaking with attendees at an event titled "Arizona Talks: Criminal Justice" hosted by Arizona Talks at the First Baptist Church of Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Toma Sponsored ‘Secure the Border Act’ Set for Final Vote

Bill expected to pass along party lines before facing voters in November election

By The Center Square, June 4, 2024 12:29 pm

(The Center Square) – Arizona House lawmakers plan to vote on the “Secure the Border Act” ballot referral on Tuesday.

House Concurrent Resolution 2060 would make it a state crime to cross into Arizona anywhere besides a legal point of entry, but it also includes other provisions aiming to crack down on illicit fentanyl and e-verify laws. (See prior reporting by Arizona Globe here and here.)

Republicans are expected to pass the legislation along party lines, as they hold a narrow majority in the chamber, but Democrats have been vocally opposed to the proposal that would ultimately be decided by voters in November.

“I will be voting in favor of HCR2060. The border is a disaster, and we need to take action,” Rep. Matt Gress, R-Phoenix (R-4), told The Center Square on Monday morning. Speaker Ben Toma (R-27) and other Republican lawmakers are in Yuma on Monday to visit the border and talk with county supervisors, according to a news release.

Some Democrats have said that it harkens back to Senate Bill 1070, a bill from 2010 that faced challenges in the United States Supreme Court, saying it could lead to racial profiling concerns.

The Center Square reported in May that when the Senate voted on the legislation, language related to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, but Democrats raised concerns related to what could be considered constitutionally permissible probable cause.

Rep. Nancy Gutierrez, D-Tucson (House Minority Whip, D-18), said that the federal government should have passed the border security bill that has failed in the United States Senate twice.

“Republicans in Congress have the strongest border bill in history, inches from the finish line,” she tweeted on Sunday. “Trump told them to kill it & they listened. HCR2060 is nothing more than AZ Republicans trying to rewrite history. They aren’t serious about the border, just cheap campaign points.”

If voters pass HCR2060, some legal experts anticipate legal obstacles to certain aspects of the bill. The state crime provision in HCR2060 is similar to Texas’ Senate Bill 4, which is facing a battle in a federal appeals court, according to the Texas Tribune.

“Most of the provisions in HCR2060, such as increased penalties for trafficking in fentanyl and submitting forged documents to employers, do not break any new legal ground,” Gould, who’s currently a partner at Holtzman Vogel, stated.

“However, the provisions granting state law enforcement officers authority to make arrests for illegal immigrants crossing into the United States between the ports of entry, and state judges with the authority to deport them, will be subject to challenge. In the past, the Supreme Court has treated immigration and border enforcement as a purely federal issue. The question now is how the current US Supreme Court will address this issue,” he continued.

Arizona’s Tucson sector continues to be one of the nation’s busiest for illegal crossings, according to Customs and Border Protection data. The House vote may coincide with a potential Executive Order from President Joe Biden on the border crisis, ABC News reported.

Story by staff reporter Cameron Arcand

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