A Republican lawmaker from Coolidge will carry the water for the governor’s forthcoming effort to enshrine a ban on so-called sanctuary cities in the state Constitution.
In his State of the State Address, Gov. Doug Ducey said that in November, it’s time to give Arizonans the chance “to say yes to the rule of law and no to sanctuary cities.” Behind that effort, he said, is Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who is planning to file a ballot referral resolution that would ask Arizona voters to decide whether the Arizona Constitution should bar local jurisdictions from limiting their compliance with federal immigration enforcement efforts.
Doing so would cement a portion of a controversial immigration bill in the state’s founding document, all-but guaranteeing that progressives will marshal against the referral in a session that legislative leaders hope to be drama free.
Democrats, however, think the legislation won’t be drama free and that Ducey and other Republicans have misread the overwhelming defeat of a ballot measure that would have made Tucson a sanctuary city.
The impetus for such a legislative effort, Shope said, was the recent Tucson Families Free and Together initiative, an attempt to limit the instances in which police can detain a person based on their immigration status and ban collaboration with federal immigration enforcement. Tucson voters roundly rejected the measure. Even the city’s newly elected progressive mayor, Regina Romero, opposed it — though this was more grounded in threats from the state to drain the city’s state-shared funding rather than an ideological problem with the initiative.
“The context was the possibility of what if the sanctuary city initiative passed,” Shope said. “That would have set up a major court case, and would have left them trying to determine what’s right.”
Sanctuary cities, though not strictly defined in statute, are already technically illegal under the SB1070, a 2010 Arizona law that allows some local control of immigration enforcement. The courts have cut most of that statute, but a provision stating that “no official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may limit or restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law” has remained. Additionally, legislation proposed this session by Rep. John Kavangh, R-Fountain Hills, would ratchet up the punishment for cities that try to adopt a sanctuary city policy.
But, legislation can be reversed and amended. However, a constitutional amendment such as the one Shope and Ducey hope to see would be voter-protected if passed, drastically increasing the difficulty that future legislatures would encounter if they want to tinker with or lift the sanctuary city ban.
Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, has also filed a ballot referral bill that uses language similar to SB1070. It stipulates that “a county, city or town of this state may not limit or restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws or state related immigration laws.”
But Allen, who could not be reached for comment, does not appear to have coordinated her bill with Shope, who said he didn’t coordinate with Allen.
Given statements from House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Senate President Karen Fann that they’d like the session to be brief and relatively free of controversy, it seems an odd time for such a measure.
Evidently, Ducey has no such compunction.
“The governor asked me and I said yes,” Shope said, clarifying that he did not ask why the governor chose him to carry this eventual resolution. “I have long been one of those guys who, if the governor asks you to work on something, you say OK.”
And Shope, the speaker pro tempore, said that he didn’t expect the referral to garner nearly as much controversy as conventional wisdom would suggest, given the thumping that Tucson’s sanctuary city initiative took.
Fann, who has promised to kill potentially headline-making bills, won’t kill this one.
“I think you had Tucson, which is in a predominantly Democratic county, particularly Tucson city proper – and when something like that goes down in those high margins, then it may not be as controversial as you think it might be,” she said.
That’s assuming Tucson voters rejected the initiative because of the underlying policy, and that Republicans are actually interested in seeing this pass.
Democrats would counter that on both counts. One, the Tucson city attorney opined that the initiative would likely conflict with state law, potentially leaving the city open to losing its state-shared revenue. This, said Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, made the city’s residents afraid of voting for the initiative.
“(Ducey) fails to understand why 70% of Tucsonians voted against that,” said Blanc. “It’s a falsity.”