Ducey, GOP leaders abandon sanctuary cities constitutional ban

By: - February 20, 2020 9:03 pm

Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

In his state of the state speech less than six weeks ago, Gov. Doug Ducey said one of his priorities for 2020 was a constitutional amendment banning sanctuary cities in Arizona. Now, amid opposition from civil rights groups and the business community, the governor says the legislation he helped author to do just that is dead.

“The governor stands firmly with the people of Arizona in opposition to sanctuary cities — a California-style policy overwhelmingly rejected by voters in Tucson last fall,” said Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Ducey. He added that the governor “will continue to oppose any effort to create sanctuary cities.”

Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for the Republican majority caucus in the House of Representatives, said in a statement that the decision to kill the proposed constitutional amendment was “made jointly” by Ducey and Republican legislative leaders.

“Sanctuary cities are illegal in Arizona. It will remain that way, and our members will remain vigilant to keep these bad policies out of Arizona,” he added.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of SB1070’s provisions, but left in place a part of the law that was designed to ban sanctuary cities. There is no definition of sanctuary cities in federal or state law, but it generally refers to places that limit cooperating with federal immigration enforcement, though that can mean many things.

There are no sanctuary cities in Arizona.

Latino groups hammered Ducey’s idea from the beginning, and after Republican lawmakers introduced measures to put the question to voters in November, they said the proposals hearkened back to 2010, when the Arizona legislature passed SB1070, a largely unconstitutional bill on immigration enforcement, with support from then Gov. Jan Brewer. That legislation prompted demonstrations and boycotts against the state.

The divisive nature of the proposed constitutional amendment led earlier this month to state troopers being called to remove people from a state Senate committee that was hearing Senate Concurrent Resolution 1007 after one opponent of the measure said it was racist. More protests were expected Friday, when the House was set to consider House Concurrent Resolution 2036, an identical measure.

This week saw a steady stream of organizations publicly opposing the measure as unnecessary and damaging to the community. Among them were the Arizona Community Foundation, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Local First Arizona. There were also calls, including from The Arizona Republic‘s editorial board, for the business community writ large to stand opposed to Ducey’s proposal.

“To the business leaders of Arizona, that noise you hear is the alarm bell we all missed 10 years ago,” the editorial board wrote, referring to the furor that erupted after SB1070 became law.

One business group, Greater Phoenix Leadership, praised the governor for dropping the sanctuary city measure.

Democratic lawmakers and groups that had voiced opposition to the constitutional amendment declared victory.

“This is because of our community coming together to fight back against this hateful, divisive, unnecessary and harmful legislation,” said Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of Living United for Change Arizona, which rallied its members and other community organizations to speak up against SCR1007 and HCR2036 at committee hearings. “We could not be more grateful to the community for being a key part of this important work.”

The House’s top Democrat also applauded Ducey’s decision to stand down.

“It was a prudent decision to stop this needlessly divisive referendum … and remove the target from the backs of Arizona’s Latino community,” House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, said. “We also know that dead bills and referendums have a way of reemerging at the legislature, so we must stay vocal and stay vigilant until this session ends.”

In a tweet she added, “We’re going to win this year by bringing people together not tearing them apart.”

Other Democratic lawmakers welcomed the news of SCR1007 and HCR2036’s defeat.

There were also concerns about the breadth of Ducey’s proposed amendment, which was sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, and Rep. TJ Shope, R-Coolidge. Critics said it was poorly written, and would result not just in cooperation between local and federal law enforcement, but in local police departments being forced to comply with virtually any request made by federal immigration officials.

***UPDATED: This story was updated to include reactions from Democratic lawmakers and other opponents of the legislation.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.