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Southern state lawmakers are cracking down on immigration

Some Republicans want to take the issue of immigration directly to voters, proposing a resolution that could end up on the November 2024 ballot.
Southern state lawmakers are cracking down on immigration
Posted at 5:37 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 19:38:26-05

The border remains at the top of the agenda for lawmakers across the country. This fiscal year, border crossings along the southwest border increased 10% compared to the same time the previous year, and illegal entry into Arizona remains high. 

So far this year, migrant encounters in the Tucson sector spiked 130% compared to last year. To deter migrants from calling the Sun Belt state home, Republican lawmakers in Arizona announced a plan they are touting as “one of the toughest immigration laws ever written."

Arizona's Republican House Speaker Ben Toma introduced a proposal to expand and repurpose a federal employment verification program known as E-verify.

"If this ballot initiative passes, illegal aliens will have every reason to leave the state of Arizona," said Toma. 

It's already required in Arizona, but under the new plan employers will face a felony if they fail to verify their employee’s legal status. 

Toma says the move will save the state billions of dollars annually in public benefits.

"We may not be able to do the federal government's job but we can definitely stop Arizona from becoming like California," he said. 

Earlier this month, independent U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona introduced a bipartisan immigration bill to overhaul the asylum system and crack down on illegal immigration. But the bill was deemed dead on arrival by the majority of congressional Republicans after former President Donald Trump lobbied against it. 

Much like Arizona, Texas and Florida are cracking down on immigration with their own laws.

On March 1, Senate Bill 4 takes effect. The new Texas law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott makes it a state crime to enter Texas illegally.  

Meanwhile in Florida, last May Gov. Ron DeSantis signed what his team called an anti-illegal immigration law to combat the border crisis. It’s similar to the Arizona proposal.

The Florida law requires private employers to use the E-verify system, expands penalties and adds fines for employers who fail to follow the law.

Immigration advocates have rallied against this law and others like it. Back in Arizona, Democrats already oppose the new resolution, saying it will only create employee shortages. 

"It does nothing to actually solve the issue. What it does is it creates a path for creating a problem," said Rep. Marcelino Quiñonez.

Toma and fellow Arizona House Republicans hope to get the proposal on the November ballot and let voters decide.

SEE MORE: Homeland Security recruiting border agents with $30,000 incentives


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