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KJZZ's Friday NewsCap: Border ballot measure is a 'desperate effort' by AZ Republicans

KJZZ’s Friday NewsCap revisits some of the biggest stories of the week from Arizona and beyond.

To talk about the state House sending a border security proposal to November’s ballot, Gov. Katie Hobbs losing a court case dealing with state agency directors and more, The Show sat down with former state lawmaker Regina Cobb and former Congressional candidate Anita Malik.

Conversation highlights

On Arizona House Republicans referring the Secure the Border Act to the November ballot

MARK BRODIE: Regina, let me start with you on the Secure the Border Act going to November’s ballot — pending, of course, legal challenges. Not a surprise, right, that the House approved this?

REGINA COBB: No, it wasn’t a surprise. I knew as soon as it went over to the House it was going to get approved. I think that this is a desperate effort. I mean, we've been asking for some kind of border security for many years. For the last three years, Biden's been sitting on his hands pretty much. And so I think that this is their effort to get something done.

BRODIE: There are some critics, though, including, on the Republican side, especially law enforcement saying, “This is basically an unfunded mandate. We don’t have the money to lock all these people up.”

COBB: I disagree with that. I think we do have the money. The money was put in there two years ago when I was in office. We had $500 million for border security. Now, some of that has been spent since that point. But I feel like that could be used. I think that this is a signal to immigrants that are coming across illegally that you should not be coming. And I think you’ll see less of the influx that we’ve seen in the past.

BRODIE: So Anita, pretty much immediately after this passed, we heard from the group LUCHA saying they were going to sue — specifically over the single-subject rule, a constitutional provision that says ballot measures, state laws can only be dealing with one subject. I am not a lawyer. I don’t think any of us in this room are lawyers, but does this seem like a reasonable case that they’re trying to make here?

ANITA MALIK: Yes, I think it does. If you look at what is in HCR 2060, it is several pieces of legislation that the Republicans tried to get through individually put down together in one. So definitely not single-subject, definitely something that, if you get it to the ballot, confuses voters.

And that’s I think the intent here is to mesh everything together. Use some buzzwords. We have fentanyl in there, that’s definitely something people are concerned about. But at the end of the day, it’s not single-subject. I think that’s a problem. The budget’s not there. There’s a number of reasons that this could be called unconstitutional.

BRODIE: So let’s assume that this does make the ballot. What kind of campaign would you anticipate in opposition?

MALIK: We can go back in history for that one and look at SB 1070 and look at the movement behind that to make sure that that didn’t go through. And so that is exactly what you’re going to see. You’re going to see a lot of effort coming out with LUCHA and all the allies really knocking on hundreds and hundreds of thousands of doors, and that effort will be there.

There is enough concern in the community, as there should be, that this is really racially profiling.

This is not only bad for our Latino brothers and sisters and our neighbors and our community, but this is bad for the state. This is an image issue, and that is why business leaders have come out and said this is a problem. That’s why they were opposed to it.

That’s why we know from a budget standpoint, this is taking money from a budget we don’t have. There’s not funds there. It’s also going to cost us money. It’s also going to hurt revenues. Think about sales tax revenues and different types of revenues that come from undocumented immigrants.

So there’s a lot more to this. And I think this was pushed together as something, quite honestly to me, as a political ploy to kind of get a headline, to confuse people at the point of the ballot. Why? Because we have some other big initiatives that are going to be on that ballot, particularly abortion access.

And so you’re really trying to now split the resources for those two campaigns. And that’s what I see as really just an effort here to distract people and to create some headlines for some wins.

BRODIE: So Regina, again, let’s assume that that does make the ballot, the legal challenge is unsuccessful. Would you expect a pretty robust campaign in support of it, or do you think legislative leaders are going to assume that people would just vote for this on their own?

COBB: Oh no, I expect robust on both sides.

BRODIE: With lots of money as well?

COBB: With lots of money. And one of the things that Anita talked about was the sales tax revenue is going to be decreasing because we’re not allowing these … and you’ve got to remember what we’re paying for also.

Roads are being paid for by the influx of people coming into our communities. Health costs. All these things are costs that have been enormous over the past three years. And we might be losing a little bit of sales tax revenue, but what have we been paying on the other side?

BRODIE: So we also saw this week, President Biden, legislative Republicans talking about — and we heard it in the clip at the beginning — the federal government in some people’s minds not doing enough, in a lot of people’s minds not doing enough. President Biden this week assigned an executive order basically saying that when illegal crossings get to a certain threshold, the asylum system is essentially going to be shut down until they get lower.

We had the mayor of Yuma on earlier this week basically saying this is a good first step. There’s more that he would like the administration to be doing, but it’s a good first step. But Anita, we’ve also heard from a lot of Democrats saying that it’s not humane. This is not the right thing to be doing.

MALIK: This is definitely one of those things where I think it took a lot of Democrats by surprise in terms of, “OK, but let’s look at it.” Once you get past the headline, let’s look at what’s really being done here. This is not — and I think the equivalent has been drawn so many times — “Oh, this is what Trump tried to do.”

It is completely different. There wasn’t this hateful rhetoric around it. There weren't the attacks on people, separating kids from their families in cages and the things that we all kind of have forgotten. Right. And so this is a first measure for something that this country, most Americans and most Arizonans for sure, have been waiting and asking for: some action.

But that action should have been comprehensive immigration reform. That action should have happened in D.C., and the Republicans — and Trump put his influence on this — shut that down. And so this to me is Biden saying, “I’ve got to do something at this point.” And the administration has been clear this isn’t the only thing that’s going to happen. There’s more to come.

So this is let’s do a quick stopgap, let’s do some analysis on what’s going on here, and then come in with some other solutions to really get this further along. But he can only do so much with executive actions. This needed to be handled by Congress. And that was stopped.

BRODIE: Do you think that this in any way stops the bleeding in terms of the the polling on immigration and the president’s bad numbers in that realm?

MALIK: You know, it’s hard to say. Immigration, to me in particular, this is not a political issue. This shouldn’t be something about gaining points in a poll. This is an issue that people have been asking for for so long, and we see it on both sides.

We just talked about HRC 260. You want to have it on one side. Trump was just here talking about how he would repeal it instantly, that executive order. Yet when asked about 260 said “Yeah, I support that.” You can’t really have this both ways.

And it’s time for us, as people that are in office and as Americans, to ask for this. We’re tired of the dysfunction. So to me, it’s not about polling. Will it change that? I’m not sure. I think I’d rather talk about Trump’s polling right now with his felony and charges.

BRODIE: So Regina, what do you think? I mean, do you agree with the Yuma mayor that it’s a good step, but maybe not not the silver bullet?

COBB: It is a good step. But it is a step that should have been taken three years ago. Not a step that’s taken six months before the election. This is (Biden’s) last-ditch effort. He’s trying to do this. He’s trying to increase his numbers in the polls and trying to increase Democrats’ numbers in the polls.

I think it's not going to be enough. Anita’s right as far as there should have been some real reforms that needed to be done. And it wasn’t just the Republicans that did not get that reform done. It was Democrats and Republicans that didn’t get that done. And that’s the problem. they didn’t want to give (U.S. Sen. Kyrsten) Sinema a win. And that’s another issue on why we didn’t get some reforms done back when all of this was being discussed at the beginning.

But if he would have taken action, I think back then, I think he would see his numbers different in the polls now. Now I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference. … Everybody sees it as a last ditch effort.

BRODIE: So I’m curious to get both of your takes on —obviously we’re five months from the election. It's an eternity in politics. But right now as we sit here on June 7, where do each of you think immigration will fall in terms of what is on voters' minds when they cast their ballots?

COBB: I think it’s probably number one. I think, when we look at the border security, immigration, this has been an issue for four years that I think both parties have seen as a problem. I think it’s going to be an issue that goes number one on the ballots.

BRODIE: Anita, what do you think?

MALIK: I think here in Arizona now with this potential issue on the ballot, as well as that? Yes, I think it’s a top issue. But I think that it’s really competing with the economy and abortion. I don’t know that one is going to stand out. And I think that’s the concern is that we have three very big issues that people are going to have to navigate.

COBB: And we haven’t talked about water. Water was an issue that was probably number one two years ago, and now it’s probably moved down to two or three, but it’s still one of the top issues.

BRODIE: But not something you hear a lot of candidates talking about.

COBB: Yeah.

MALIK: Right.

KJZZ’s The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ’s programming is the audio record.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.