Lawrence wants state law to define ‘sanctuary’ cities

A Scottsdale Republican lawmaker wants to define sanctuary cities in Arizona law. 

Rep. Jay Lawrence’s House Bill 2095 would define a “sanctuary juristiction” as a place that prohibits or restrics an official or government entity from “sending, receiving, maintaining or exhanging with any federal, state or local government entity information” about the immigration status of an undocumented immigrant; or fails to comply with an immigration detainer or notify federal authorities of the release from custody of an undocumented immigrant. 

It adds that some places are not included in the definition — particularly those that don’t share information with federal immigration authorities about immigrants who are a victim or witness of a criminal offense. 

There’s no statutory definition for sanctuary city in Arizona. There’s also no legal definition for the term. It often refers to places with local policies that limit enforcement of federal immigration laws. 

Some state leaders regard a section in the decade-old Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law, as a ban on sanctuary cities. That section states that officials in state and municipal government cannot “limit or restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.” Although much of SB1070 was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, that provision was upheld as constitutional.

Last fall, when a grassroots initiative to designate Tucson as the state’s first sanctuary city was headed for the November ballot, Republican lawmakers vowed to strengthen laws to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions. The Tucson measure, called Tucson Families Free and Together, failed in a landslide. 

Lawrence’s seatmate, Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills, announced in October he planned to introduce legislation allowing people to sue cities for damages if they are harmed by restrictions to Arizona’s immigration enforcement law. 

Kavanagh hasn’t yet introduced his bill, but told Arizona Mirror on Tuesday he will do so soon. Kavanagh’s legislation also seeks to create a definition for sanctuary jurisdiction that is almost identical to the one in Lawrence’s bill.

Lawerence didn’t return a call for comment on HB2095.

Laura Gómez
Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for Spanish-language news and feature reporting. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.