The head of a major business organization wants state lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey to quash a proposal to allow individuals to sue cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
“We don’t need it,” Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Capitol Media Services on Tuesday. And he said it has the potential of creating needless controversy and ill will.
“This is an area where there needs to be great sensitivity,” he said. And Hamer said that with strong laws against “sanctuary cities” on the books “we believe that attention would be better focused elsewhere.”
Hamer said he has sharing his views with lawmakers who will decide the future of the measure — and with Gov. Doug Ducey who will have to make the final decision whether to sign it if it clears the House and Senate.
That pressure could be the death knell for HB 2598.
It was opposition from the business community, including the state chamber, that forced the governor to pull the plug last month on his plan to ask voters to enshrine into the Arizona Constitution provisions of the 2010 law that outlaws sanctuary cities. That move came despite the fact that Ducey’s proposal was a keynote of his State of the State speech.
“The business community had concerns,” Ducey chief of staff Daniel Scarpinato conceded when explaining why his boss decided not to pursue that plan.
Strictly speaking, HB 2598, unlike the ballot proposal, is not part of the governor’s agenda. Instead, the measure crafted by Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, seeks to impose new financial liability on any community whose policies keep law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In essence, the legislation says crime victims can sue cities and counties if the person who committed the offense had been released from custody without local officials contacting federal agencies to inquire whether the person was here legally. Lawsuits also would be allowed if local jurisdictions ignored a request by ICE to be notified about someone’s pending release.
In pushing the measure, Roberts said the issues are the same as the now-scrapped constitutional ban on sanctuary cities: the fear that some communities might adopt sanctuary-type policies. He said HB 2598 would provide a financial disincentive.
Roberts told Capitol Media Services he is undeterred — and a bit confused — by business opposition. He said all it does is provide civil restitution to any future victims who are injured due to sanctuary policies.
“Why would a business not want to protect victims?” he asked. “If any one of of these business owners were to become a victim this bill would protect them as well.”
And Roberts suggested that the opposition may be ill considered.
“There used to be a day where cities competed to be the safest in America,” he said. “Unfortunately today it’s more about political correctness and identity politics.”
Ducey refused to comment.
Hamer told Capitol Media Services he agrees with Roberts on two points.
“The chamber supports a strong, vibrant business community and safe communities and neighborhoods,” he said. It was for that reason, Hamer said, that his organization opposed the measure on the November ballot in Tucson to adopt sanctuary policies.
The second point, however, is the political parallel between the now-defunct ballot referral pushed by Ducey and HB 2598.
“We felt it was prudent to stop moving that through the process,” Hamer said of the governor’s plan. “And that same sentiment in terms of the desirability of moving anything in this area would hold for any other legislative activity for this session.”
In fact, Hamer said, what Roberts is proposing is in some ways even worse than Ducey’s proposed constitutional amendment because of its financial implications.
“We’re not necessarily the biggest fans of opening up our cities, our law enforcement officials to civil liability,” he said.
And then, Hamer said, there’s the publicity that such legislation would create, both nationally and internationally — and the potential ill will that could create.
“We recognize that there’s increased sensitivity to anything that this state does on immigration,” he said. That goes beyond SB 1070 but also other measures, like the Legal Arizona Workers Act, a measure that goes back to 2007 which prohibits businesses from knowingly or intentionally hiring an “unauthorized alien.”
“We’re a welcoming state,” he said, pointing out that Mexico “is far and away our largest trading partner” as well as the largest source for international visitors.
And Hamer said that, for some border communities, shopping by Mexican nationals accounts for upwards of 60 percent of their local sales tax collections.
“And we want to focus on the positive,” he said.
Roberts said such opposition is not merited.
“People and businesses, both currently and I predict in the future, will continue to move to Arizona because we provide a business friendly environment,” he said.