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Arizona Republican lawmakers to defend border ballot referral

Arizona Republican legislative leaders have intervened in a legal case challenging a controversial ballot measure that would give local and state police the power to enforce immigration law.

If approved by voters, HCR 2060 would make it a state crime to cross Arizona’s border with Mexico outside of an official port of entry. It also includes enhanced penalties for people who sell fentanyl and those using fake documents to obtain employment or public benefits.

Latino advocacy group LUCHA filed a lawsuit claiming HCR 2060 violates the state Constitution. Poder in Action, Phoenix Legal Action Network and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project filed a similar suit days later. They both claimed it runs afoul of a rule requiring pieces of legislation to stick to a single subject. A judge later consolidated the cases.

Andy Gaona, an attorney for Poder in Action, asked the court for an injunction to prevent the Secretary of State from placing the measure on the ballot. He argued the ballot referral covers too many, unrelated subject areas, including crimes dealing with immigration status and fentanyl dealing.

"To allow the Legislature to do [effectively] whatever it wants under the broad subject of the ‘border’ would be precisely the sort of 'foolishly liberal' interpretation of the Single Subject Rule that Arizona courts forbid," according to the lawsuit.

House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) and Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) also intervened in the lawsuit to defend HCR 2060, which mirrors a bill vetoed by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs earlier this year.

Toma and Petersen have intervened in several lawsuits to defend legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Senate since Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes took office in 2023.

Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.
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