Governor Vetoes Effort to Criminalize Immigrants’ Presence

AP, April 17, 2006

Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed a bill Monday that would have criminalized the presence of illegal immigrants in Arizona, citing opposition from police agencies that want immigration arrests to remain the responsibility of the federal government.

The proposal would have expanded the state’s trespassing law to let local authorities arrest illegal immigrants anywhere in Arizona, the nation’s busiest illegal entry point. Congress also had considered criminalizing the presence of illegal immigrants in the country.

Supporters said the bill would have given Arizona a chance to get a handle on its vast border problems by providing a second layer of enforcement to catch the tens of thousands of immigrants who slip past federal agents each year.

Opponents said the bill lacked funding for the new duties, was an unconstitutional attempt to get local police to regulate federal immigration law and would have detracted from the traditional role that local police play in cracking down on thefts, violence and other crimes.

State politicians facing re-election races are feeling pressure to confront illegal immigration, a problem that until recent years had been considered the sole province of the federal government.

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