Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a controversial immigration bill that would require some undocumented immigrants who are convicted of crimes to serve 85% of the jail time meted out before they are deported. The proposal is the first in a series of Republican immigration proposals introduced this session.
According to The Associated Press, the new measure is a tame version of a similar bill supported by anti-illegal immigration Republicans that has lost traction. House Bill 2451 would require undocumented immigrants who are imprisoned to serve 85% of their sentences before being released to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"Everyone must be held to the same standard of justice. I signed #HB2451 to ensure every criminal serves their sentence, no exceptions," Ducey tweeted on 31 March. In a signing statement on the measure, the governor added, "While some have tried to play politics with this law enforcement issue, the reality is this is a sensible public safety measure that ensures we have one justice system that applies to all."
The bill, which affects most low- and mid-level felons, was sponsored by Representative Darin Mitchell, a Republican from Litchfield Park. According to ABC 15, US Department of Homeland Security policy dictates federal immigration officials should prioritise the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have committed a felony.
HB2451 would repeal a law that allows federal immigration officials to retrieve undocumented prisoners after serving just half of their sentences. Fellow Republican John Kavanagh, of Fountain Hills, said the current law allows undocumented immigrants who commit a crime to serve less time than other prisoners. "The current law is an absurd law and this creates a terrible injustice in our system," Kavanagh said.
Democratic Senator Martin Quezada of Phoenix, however, argued the bill could cost the state more money to incarcerate the prisoners for longer time periods. "This is another example of a bill where our zeal to be harsh on immigrants and criminals doesn't necessarily translate into good public policy," he said.
According to ABC 15, five immigration-rights activists were arrested for trespassing after they chained themselves to the front entrance of the executive tower at the Capitol. The protestors, who used bicycle chains and cables and locks according to police, tried to convince Ducey not to sign the bill.
"It is worth it, we are not going to allow hate to come into our state and let our families get incarcerated," said Heather Hamill, one of the protesters. "If we can take a stand we are going to."