Leaders of border communities have persuaded a lawmaker to withdraw legislation that would have required the state to alert the public to dangers caused by illegal immigration.
Rep. Peggy Judd, R-Willcox, made the decision after meeting Monday with a group including the mayors of Nogales and Douglas and a representative of a produce-growers organization.
Judd had said the measure would reduce misinformation, but the leaders argued it would instead stoke unfounded fears about crime in border communities.
“Sometimes you put something in an agenda and you get reminded that some thing’s wrong,” Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino said. “If you feel uncomfortable with what they do, you pull it or you strategize and bring it back. There’s no problem in saying that there’s something wrong.”
HB 2586, which was awaiting a vote by the full House, would have applied to an area within 62 miles of the border with Mexico as well six miles into Mexico. It called for Arizona Department of Homeland Security to monitor international, federal and state sources and share information about dangerous conditions through means including email and social media.
The bill prompted emergency meetings in Nogales and Bisbee. The mayors of Nogales, San Luis, South Tucson and Douglas sent letters outlining their concerns, as did community groups.
Judd’s hour-long meeting with the group ended with her asking who opposed the bill. Hands shot up around the room.
“OK, I get it,” she said.
Judd said later that she didn’t intend to harm anyone and was focusing on security rather than the economic impact of the legislation.
“It’s a different kind of animal,” Judd said. “These people say, ‘My community, my livelihood, our livelihood!’ when other people are thinking about welfare and defense.”
Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, who signed on as a co-sponsor, said she was told the bill did something else.
“I would not have signed up for a bill that does what this bill does,” she said in a telephone interview. “This is like the whole headless bodies-in-the-desert comment. People are afraid to visit these great communities along the border that are safe.”
Douglas Mayor Michael Gomez said the information Judd wanted to publicize is already published in FBI Uniform Crime Reports.
“When they want to know what’s happening in our areas, call the cities; get information from there and we’ll let them know the truth,” he said. “All this is going to do is lead to a lot of innuendos and misinformation.”
HB 2586 provisions:
• The Arizona Department of Homeland Security will monitor international, federal and state sources and determine if the information contains any type of warning about dangerous conditions related to illegal immigration.
• The zone involved is within 62 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and in Mexico within six miles of the border.
• The director shall disseminate any warnings to the public in a manner that will immediately warn the public of the danger, such as email and social media.
• The director isn’t liable for failing to disseminate the information.