A proposal at the Arizona Legislature that would draw local authorities deeper into the fight against illegal immigration has been met with skepticism by a pair of lawmakers who questioned whether it would violate freedom of association rights.
Their questions arose last week over a provision that would make it illegal for people to transport illegal immigrants if the drivers of vehicles know their passengers are in the country illegally and if the transportation furthers their illegal presence in the country.
Two lawmakers questioned whether a driver who brings people to church or parents who give rides to their child’s friends would be committing a crime if their passengers were illegal immigrants. “It is basically asking Arizona citizens to check your friends’ papers,” said Republican Rep. Adam Driggs of Phoenix, an attorney who has expertise in immigration law.
The proposal also would ban so-called soft immigration policies at local police agencies, create the state crime of willfully failing to complete or carry an immigrant registration document, and prohibit people from blocking traffic when they seek or offer day-labor services on street corners.
The bill won approval in February from the Senate, but its momentum has slowed in the House. It’s not clear whether the questions raised by Driggs and others will hurt the bill’s chances of becoming law.
Supporters of the proposal said the criticism made by Driggs is incorrect and that the bill will be changed in the coming days to respond to those concerns. “This is overreaching on their part,” said Republican Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, the bill’s sponsor.
Pearce said the change would specify that drivers would be committing the crime of transporting illegal immigrants if they furthered the illegal presence of their passengers and if the drivers were engaged in criminal activity.
Republican Rep. Cecil Ash of Mesa, who raised the question about transporting people to church, said he will vote for the bill if it’s changed to ease his concerns.
Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix, an opponent of the measure, said there are a fair number of lawmakers from both parties who have objections to the bill, but she doesn’t know if those concerns were enough to sink it.