A section of the wall along the Mexican border
A section of the wall along the Mexican border AFP

Arizona Republicans have been seeking for months now to highly increase immigration restrictions with a bill they have called the Arizona Border Invasion Act. This week, Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, blocked the motion, highlighting the current election-year tensions over border security and immigration.

The Arizona Border Invasion Act would have made crossing the border without authorization a misdemeanor state crime, and a felony for migrants who crossed after being deported or ordered to leave, the New York Times reported. The bill would have also allowed state law enforcement officials to detain migrants, and Arizona judges to order deportations.

In her veto, Gov. Hobbs said the measure "does not secure our border, will be harmful for communities and businesses in our state and burdensome for law enforcement."

She added that it could also potentially violate the U.S. Constitution by claiming what has been the federal government's exclusive power: to arrest and deport immigrants.

The bill is similar to SB4, a Texas law seeking to allow state law enforcement to arrest and deport migrants. The law's implementation was suspended by the Supreme Court on Monday following a request by the Department of Justice.

The veto is the first of the year from Hobbs, who shut down a record number of bills passed by Arizona's Republican-controlled Legislature in 2023, many of them regarding abortion, elections, LGBTQ rights and more.

The bill, which passed with no Democratic support, is only one of the few immigration measures likely to be vetoed at Hobbs' desk. For instance, another one advancing through the Arizona Legislature could expand the state's self-defense laws to allow farmers and ranchers to legally shoot migrants who trespass on their property.

Katie Hobbs
Katie Hobbs AFP

The state's Republicans have argued that their bill was an emergency solution necessary to deal with what they have called "Joe Biden's border invasion," a phrase some GOP members have adopted to refer to the recent influx of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

They have also said that the record influx of migrants from across the world who slip through the border wall or hike through the desert to turn themselves in to Border Patrol has strained law enforcement and border towns and brought crime and drugs, such as fentanyl, into the state.

Nevertheless, despite these accusations, several recent studies and reports have pointed out that the vast majority of fentanyl stopped from entering the U.S. is being smuggled by U.S. citizens through legal ports of entry.

Hobbs' veto was met with fervor from her colleagues on the right. State Senator Janae Shamp, a Republican sponsor of the bill, called the veto an example of the "chaos Hobbs is unleashing in our state while perpetuating this open border crisis as Biden's accomplice."

Recent legislature and increased debates have followed a year of heavy flow of migrants in The Grand Canyon State.

The Tucson, Arizona, Customs and Border Patrol sector has seen a 149.6% jump in migrant encounters, which includes people crossing legally and those quickly expelled, this January over January 2023, according to CBP statistics.

Similarly, Latinos in Arizona have long played a significant role in politics and policy making. In 2020, Latinos helped flip the longtime red state for Biden, with 74% of Hispanics who voted choosing Biden.

"The far right woke up a sleeping giant in the Latino communities and we have been awake. We have been organizing. We have been educated on policy and we have run for office and we are the ones sitting in these seats and activating our communities," Rep. Analise Ortiz, a Phoenix-area Democrat, told NBC News back in February about Republicans' anti-immigration efforts.

"If Republicans think they can play the same old tricks they played in 2011, they are sorely mistaken. Our Latino community will come out in force," she said.

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