Arizona sanctuary policies hearing erupts in shouting

Thursday, February 13, 2020

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona Senate hearing on an effort to enshrine an existing ban on “sanctuary cities” in the state Constitution erupted in shouting as immigrant rights activists called the proposal racist and the committee chairman ordered them removed.

Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen’s proposal to ask voters weigh in on the plan was approved along party lines after a lengthy delay of Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. 

The proposal backed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey brought warnings from Democrats about the return to “one of the darkest years in Arizona history” — referencing the 2010 passage of the law known as SB1070, which was designed to crack down on illegal immigration.

The courts upheld the law’s ban on sanctuary policies and its key feature: a requirement that police officers, while enforcing other laws, question the immigration status of people suspected of being in the country illegally. Other provisions of the landmark law — such as a requirement that immigrants carry registration papers — were barred by the courts. 

Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada said SB1070 instilled fear among the population and harmed students of all races. He added that Arizona doesn’t need to ban sanctuary cities since the portion of the law banning them was one of the few provisions that survived a U.S. Supreme Court review. 

“This is a meaningless exercise,” Quezada said, adding that the new measure was intended to appeal to base Republican voters. “All this does is pander to a small group of people.”

Allen testified that criminal cartels were using sanctuary policies to run drugs and import “criminal elements.”

“If we are not going to be a nation of laws and respect the laws of our nation we go to anarchy,’ she said. 

“You cannot live in a society of anarchy. There must be a respect for law.”

Ducey called for the measure in his January State of the State address, saying it was needed to reinforce the state’s will that cities and counties can’t ignore federal immigration laws. 

It was a sharp change for the second-term governor, who has largely avoided the anti-immigrant tone embraced by his predecessor, Republican Jan. Brewer. 

The new proposal goes farther than the existing law, which bars government agencies and officials from limiting or restricting the enforcement of federal immigration law.

Under the measures now moving in both the House and Senate, all government agencies would be required to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement agencies, including schools and public hospitals. 

If approved, voters would be asked to approve the constitutional amendment in November. 

“SCR1007 turns every part of Arizona’s government into immigration enforcers, destroying the trust between community and government,” Darrell Hill, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, told the committee.