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Arizona Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Police to Arrest Migrants

Gov. Katie Hobbs of Arizona vetoed a bill on Monday that would have authorized the state police to arrest undocumented immigrants.

It was the first veto of the year from Ms. Hobbs, a Democrat who shot down a record number of bills passed by Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature in 2023 dealing with abortion, elections, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and other hot-button issues.

Her veto on highlights the election-year tensions over border security as border states and major cities grapple with a record number of migrants crossing the southern border. Ms. Hobbs has expressed frustration with the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis, but said the Republican-backed measure was anti-immigrant and most likely unconstitutional.

The bill, called the Arizona Border Invasion Act, would have made crossing the border without authorization a misdemeanor state crime, and a felony for migrants who crossed after being deported or ordered to leave. It would also have allowed state law enforcement officials to detain migrants, and Arizona judges to order deportations.

Ms. Hobbs said that the measure “does not secure our border, will be harmful for communities and businesses in our state and burdensome for law enforcement.” She also said that it potentially violated the U.S. Constitution by claiming what has long been the federal government’s exclusive power to arrest and deport immigrants.

The bill echoed a new Texas law — now blocked in court — that has set off a legal confrontation between the Biden administration and Texas officials over whether the state can enforce immigration policy. On Monday, the Supreme Court signaled it would intervene in the battle between Texas and the Biden administration.

The Arizona measure, which passed with no Democratic support, is one of several border-focused bills likely to collide with Ms. Hobbs’s veto stamp in the coming weeks. Another bill advancing through the Legislature could expand Arizona’s self-defense laws to allow farmers and ranchers to legally shoot migrants who trespass on their property.

Although crossing the border without authorization is already a federal crime, Arizona Republicans argued that their bill was an emergency measure necessary to curb what they called “Joe Biden’s border invasion.”

They said that the record influx of migrants from across the world who slip through the border wall or hike through the desert to turn themselves in to Border Patrol had strained law enforcement and border towns and brought violent crime and fentanyl into the state.

Some federal officials and Democrats have tried to rebut those assertions, saying that most of the fentanyl stopped from entering the United States is being smuggled by U.S. citizens through legal ports of entry. They also point to federal crime statistics that say border towns in Texas are safer than many nonborder cities.

Arizona Republicans on Monday condemned the governor’s veto. State Senator Janae Shamp, a sponsor of the bill, called the veto an example of the “chaos Hobbs is unleashing in our state while perpetuating this open border crisis as Biden’s accomplice.”

A Latino advocacy group, Living United for Change in Arizona, called the measure one of the most “extreme and racist anti-immigrant bills” in years. The group said that it echoed Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, a 2010 measure that required state law enforcement to investigate the immigration status of people they suspected of being undocumented.

Alejandra Gomez, the group’s executive director, praised Ms. Hobbs for killing the bill, saying it represented a rejection of “racism, hate and just plain bad policy.”

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