Border Bill Advances In Arizona State House

On Sunday night in May, Border Patrol agents attempted to process what law enforcement officers described as a "rude and unruly mob" of approximately 500 illegal aliens in Yuma.

A bill that would make it a state crime to illegally cross the nation’s border advanced out of the Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee on a party-line vote. 

The 8-7 vote advanced HB2748, sponsored by Scottsdale Republican Joseph Chaplik, that makes it a misdemeanor or potentially a felony for individuals entering Arizona from a foreign country as aliens, except through legal ports of entry. 

Arizona’s open border with Mexico has made the state a flashpoint for border crime, and as border sheriffs testified during a recent legislative hearing, it is officially a crisis on the border.  According to testimony, the Cochise County sheriff’s office has investigated 601 border-related crimes involving felony victims. In one case mentioned to legislators, a teenage driver, attempting to evade border law enforcement, reached speeds of 140 miles per hour before crashing while transporting four aliens. Legislators were further alarmed to learn that nearly a quarter of all fentanyl seized in the U.S. in 2022 was confiscated in or within 20 miles of Cochise County. 

And things are getting worse.  Encounters at the southwest border in FY2023 increased over 40 percent since FY2021 and 169 individuals on the terrorist watch list were caught trying to cross the southern border in the past year.  These numbers do not include “get-aways” who are not apprehended. 

Several members of the House Committee spoke in favor of the bill and efforts to secure the border. 

“Texas’ bill was a commonsense approach that makes equal sense for a border state like Arizona.” said State Rep. Quang Nguyen, adding “We have to stop the madness at our border and this bill is just one more way of helping to do that.” 

“We have an obligation to give law enforcement the tools they need to keep the people of Arizona safe, even if Joe Biden and the federal government have given up the fight.” said State Rep. David Marshall. 

“Everyone knows you are not allowed to cross the border illegally, but our federal government just gives these criminals a wink and waves them through.” said State Rep. Laurin Hendrix, adding “Well we’re not going to do that in Arizona, we’re going to pass laws and actually enforce them.” 

Key provisions of HB 2748 include:

  • Establishing a class 1 misdemeanor (or a class 6 felony for subsequent offenses) for individuals entering Arizona from a foreign country as aliens, except through legal ports of entry.
  • Imposing a class 1 misdemeanor for aliens re-entering the U.S. through Arizona if they were previously deported, excluded, or left while a deportation or exclusion order was pending.
    • Elevating the offense to a class 3 felony if the alien was removed due to multiple drug misdemeanors, federal inadmissibility, terrorism involvement, or removal following a nonviolent crime.
    • Elevating the offense to a class 2 felony if the alien was removed after committing a felony.
  • Providing for an order of return for aliens violating the law, with failure to comply constituting a class 2 felony.
  • Granting immunity from civil liability for local and state government officials, employees, and contractors enforcing the law, with indemnification for civil actions under federal law.
  • Mandating the Arizona Attorney General to pursue all available remedies to recover federal reimbursements for state costs incurred due to illegal immigration.

The bill now advances for consideration by the full House.

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