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Proposal to allow Ariz. police to enforce immigration law to appear on state's ballot

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Arizona, Republican lawmakers have approved what they're calling a border security measure to place on the ballot in November. It's modeled after a similar law in Texas. Democrats, Latino rights advocates and many business groups are adamantly against it. Wayne Schutsky of member station KJZZ in Phoenix tells us more.

WAYNE SCHUTSKY, BYLINE: The ballot referral would make it a state crime to cross Arizona's border with Mexico outside of a legal port of entry. That's already illegal under federal law, but the new proposal would empower local police to enforce immigration law. House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci said federal inaction at the border forced Arizona lawmakers to act.

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LEO BIASIUCCI: The federal government has been failing to do the job that they have promised to do to protect our border, and so when that happens, we must exercise our 10th Amendment right to protect our state.

SCHUTSKY: But Democrats compared the bill to SB 1070 - the controversial immigration law passed in Arizona over a decade ago that was partially overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court - and said it could subject people of color to profiling by law enforcement. They also claim the state can't afford to pay for additional enforcement and incarceration costs, as Arizona faces a projected $1.3 billion budget deficit. Representative Mariana Sandoval, a Democrat, said the federal government, not the state, should step up to address what she called a humanitarian crisis at the border.

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MARIANA SANDOVAL: We need to set aside politics and focus on the fact that we're dealing with real people that deserve dignity, respect and a humanitarian approach, not criminalization or hate.

SCHUTSKY: The ballot referral is similar to a bill passed by Republicans earlier this year that was vetoed by Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs, but this proposal will bypass the governor and go directly to voters in November. LUCHA, an advocacy group opposed to the measure, says it plans to file a lawsuit claiming the proposal is overly broad. A LUCHA attorney alleged it violates a state constitutional provision, requiring individual pieces of legislation to stick to a single subject. But at least one top Republican lawmaker says he isn't concerned about violating the single-subject rule.

For NPR News, I'm Wayne Schutsky, in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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