On election night, just after being named the winner of Arizona’s hotly contested race for governor, Doug Ducey promised to “make Arizona a place of opportunity for all.” He reiterated that promise during his Jan. 5 inaugural address, saying every Arizonan must be “given a fair chance and even a second chance, no one forgotten, no one written off.”
For 95 years, the ACLU has worked to make those statements a reality, and we could certainly use his help.
First, we urge Governor Ducey to follow in the footsteps of leaders in Utah, South Carolina and Alabama and drop the state’s defense of SB 1070, the anti-immigrant law that has had devastating consequences on the state’s economy and reputation, and put many immigrants, legal residents and U.S. citizens at risk of having their civil rights violated. SB 1070 has been a costly, failed experiment, resulting in lengthy court battles and, ultimately, financial and cultural losses for the state.
Settling the case now would send the message that Arizona welcomes all, no matter where they were born. It would also demonstrate a genuine commitment to improving our economic ties with Mexico — a promise Governor Ducey made to voters on the campaign trail — as a way to help kick-start our economy.
Next, Governor Ducey should toss his predecessor’s policy of denying driver’s licenses to people granted deferred action from deportation by President Obama. Although some young immigrants can now get licenses, as a result of years of costly litigation, other deferred action recipients are still denied the ability to legally drive, severely restricting their educational and work opportunities. Governor Ducey should allow all people who have permission from the federal government to live and work in the U.S. to drive legally in Arizona.
Moving on to “second chances,” Governor Ducey needs to ensure no more Arizona prisoners die unnecessarily while in the state’s custody because of inadequate mental or physical health care. The broken health care system within Arizona’s prisons is plagued by long-term and systemic problems that have caused numerous deaths and preventable injuries.
Days before a trial in October, the ACLU agreed to a settlement with the Arizona Department of Corrections that will overhaul how the state cares for prisoners. Under the settlement, Arizona’s prisons must meet more than 100 health care performance measures, which cover issues such as monitoring of prisoners with chronic conditions, and limit the use of solitary confinement for prisoners with serious mental illnesses.
But improvements to prisoner care can’t happen without adequate funding. Governor Ducey must make certain that the prisons budget covers these much-needed reforms. All people in Arizona’s custody need to be treated humanely so that they can return to our communities in good health and pursue new opportunities.
Finally, Governor Ducey should oppose any proposals brought to him by the Legislature that seek to restrict Arizonans’ freedom, including restrictions on abortion and bills permitting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
In the past five years, Arizona politicians have introduced at least 25 bills restricting abortion. Many of those that were signed into law have been blocked by the courts, wasting taxpayer resources that could have been spent elsewhere.
And after years of telling the LGBT community they’re not wanted in Arizona — with prohibitions on domestic partner benefits, limits on adoption and SB 1062 — October’s federal court decision legalizing marriage for same-sex couples finally made Arizona a somewhat welcoming place for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Governor Ducey should do everything in his power to make the LGBT community feel included in Arizona.
Arizona has a long way to go before everyone here is “given a fair chance,” but if Governor Ducey is serious about expanding freedom and opportunity for all Arizonans, he could help us make huge strides toward that goal over the next four years.
— Alessandra Soler is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.