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Arizona's governor argues against immigration bill package backed by Republicans

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

Republican lawmakers in Arizona are backing a package of bills restricting immigration. They say the federal government has failed to secure their state's southern border. The state's Democratic governor agrees the federal government has fallen short, but she says the bills would hurt the economy and disproportionately impact the Latino community and other minority groups. From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Wayne Schutsky reports.

WAYNE SCHUTSKY, BYLINE: Back in 2010, Arizona lawmakers passed SB 1070, a controversial law intended to prevent illegal immigration. Critics like Alejandra Gomez, with Living United for Change in Arizona, blamed the bill for a rise in racial profiling against the Latino community.

ALEJANDRA GOMEZ: I was here when our communities were being stopped and persecuted in the streets, at checkpoints, and asked for their papers and being deported.

SCHUTSKY: The U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of that law, saying sections that empowered local police to enforce immigration conflicted with federal law. Latino advocacy groups compared the 14-year-old law to a bill that passed out of the Arizona legislature last month, but Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs vetoed that measure.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATIE HOBBS: It is a bill that does not do anything to solve the border crisis.

SCHUTSKY: This is one of several immigration bills backed by Arizona Republicans this year that likely won't make it past Hobbs' veto pen. Another would expand the state's castle doctrine law so ranchers could legally shoot and kill migrants who cross their land. The tug of war over these bills reflects the reality of split government in a border state, where both Republicans and Democrats criticize the federal government's border policies, yet they disagree on the state's role in addressing the problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JANAE SHAMP: Right is right, and wrong is wrong. And we need to protect our citizens.

SCHUTSKY: Republican Senator Janae Shamp is a nurse who sponsored the vetoed bill. She says it was not motivated by racial animus. Instead, she says, it would simply give local sheriffs the tools they need to combat illegal drugs being smuggled and human trafficking.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHAMP: So when someone's not doing their job, where I come from, people die. Well, people are dying right now because of the federal government not doing their job.

SCHUTSKY: But Governor Hobbs' veto power only goes so far. Another Republican proposal would make it tougher for undocumented migrants to work in the state by strengthening enforcement of existing employment laws. If it passes out of the legislature, it wouldn't need Hobbs' signature, instead going straight to voters on the November ballot. Hobbs calls it a political stunt by the bill's sponsor, House Speaker Ben Toma, who is running for Congress in a heavily Republican district in the Phoenix suburbs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HOBBS: I think what he's proposing has more to do with his run for Congress than actually solving the problem. But I understand legislators' frustrations in line with Arizonans' frustration about Washington's failure to act.

SCHUTSKY: According to the Migration Policy Institute, Democratic President Joe Biden has signed 535 immigration-related actions, surpassing the Trump administration's total. But Toma says the federal government and Governor Hobbs aren't doing enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN TOMA: Our border is being overrun by illegal aliens, and it's painfully clear at this point that our governor and our president are doing nothing about it.

SCHUTSKY: Monica Villalobos with the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says the measure goes too far. She says it would lead to racial profiling, unfairly target Latinos and hurt the economy in a state where key sectors like construction are already facing a labor shortage.

MONICA VILLALOBOS: Bad policies like these do not strengthen Arizona law. Instead, it restricts the ability of Arizona businesses to thrive.

SCHUTSKY: Hobbs has been almost as vocal as Republicans when it comes to criticizing the Biden administration over its border policies, and she has implemented her own immigration policies, like a migrant busing program and deploying the National Guard to border communities.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HOBBS: It is an absolute mischaracterization to say that my office hasn't done anything on border security.

SCHUTSKY: Some of the same groups that came together to oppose SB 1070 in 2010 are part of a coalition opposing the new package of immigration bills. Gomez says the groups are preparing a campaign to convince voters to reject the employment proposal if it reaches the ballot.

GOMEZ: But what we are saying is not today. You can't have that, not on the backs of our families.

SCHUTSKY: Gomez says her group is prepared to knock on 1 million doors in Arizona this year. For NPR News, I'm Wayne Schutsky in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Wayne Schutsky
[Copyright 2024 KJZZ]
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