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April 13, 2006
Arizona Votes For Immigration Enforcement

The Arizona state legislature voted to enact a bill that would require its law-enforcement agencies to arrest illegal immigrants for violating state laws against criminal trespass, a measure that would trump resistance to cooperating with federal agencies in rounding up illegal immigrants. The bill now goes to Democratic governor Janet Napolitano, who has made veto noises on this issue:

Two days after a big immigration march in Phoenix, the Arizona Legislature on Wednesday approved legislation to make illegal immigrants subject to the state's criminal trespassing law.

The Senate approved the bill on a 17-12 vote and the House followed with a 33-27 vote, with both Republican-led chambers voting nearly along party lines.

Supporters of the bill contend it would provide "a second line of defense" behind the border patrol by enabling state and local law enforcement officers to arrest illegal immigrants. ...

The bill was sent to Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano. She declined to say Wednesday what she'll do with it, but her office later released letters from 12 law enforcement groups and officials, including sheriffs in three border counties, urging her to veto the bill.

The bill "represents an enormous unfunded obligation for state, county and local law enforcement," Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada wrote.

The Arizona GOP has drawn a line in the sand. In order to avoid the criticism that they wanted to force state police to enforce federal law, the legislature made clear that the police should be enforcing state law to detain illegal immigrants. That paints Napolitano into a corner, and puts the Democrats on the defensive in a state that gives overwhelming support for border security. No longer can Napolitano make a case for federalism through vetoing tough border control legislation; this time she will either have to support the enforcement of state law or specifically cast herself and the Democrats as opposed to enforcing the law regarding illegal immigrants.

Expect Napolitano to veto the legislation. The GOP will not have the votes required to overturn the veto, but the positions will finally be made clear, and Arizona voters will know where Napolitano truly stands on border enforcement. Proposition 200, which required proof of citizenship for voting and applying for public benefits, passed 56-44 in 2004, demonstrating that Arizona wants better control over the border and illegal immigration. Napolitano's veto will put her on the wrong side of that divide just in time for her re-election campaign. She leads in early polling, but that may well come to an end with this decision.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 13, 2006 6:49 AM

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