Activists, lawmakers celebrate defeat of sanctuary cities amendment

Dozens of young community organizers, longtime activists, Latino lawmakers, lawyers, and faith and business leaders gathered on Feb. 21, 2020, at the state capitol to celebrate the defeat of the two Republican-led immigration enforcement measures. Pictured in the front row, from left to right, are Stephanie Maldonado with LUCHA; state Reps. Isela Blanc and Raquel Terán; Alejandra Gomez with LUCHA; and Alicia Contreras, with Congregations Rising Arizona Organizing Neighborhoods. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

After Gov. Doug Ducey and legislative leaders vowed to no longer pursue a constitutional amendment that would ban sanctuary cities in the state, about 40 longtime Latino activists, young community organizers and Democratic lawmakers took to the State Capitol to celebrate. 

“This is an amazing victory,” Rep. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, said. “Ten years ago we were sitting here in this lawn, and we said SB1070 was going to be the end of divisive anti-immigrant legislation. And today, we proved that we keep our promises. We kept the promise through the decade.” 

In his state of the state speech less than six weeks ago, Ducey said one of his priorities for 2020 was a constitutional amendment banning sanctuary cities in Arizona. But on Thursday night, he caved in to pressure from the business community. 

The move came after a contentious two weeks of meetings in which community activists sparred with lawmakers and lawmakers have sparred with each other over the proposed legislation. 

“It was their attempt to try to get their base out,” Terán said. “It was an attempt to divide.” 

The pieces of legislation, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1007 and House Concurrent Resolution 2036, sought to enshrine the ban on sanctuary cities that was part of SB1070 into the constitution. That provision was among the pieces of the law that wasn’t struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Currently, 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. 

There are no sanctuary cities in Arizona.

“The response from the governor last night shows the power we have after 1070 and the power we have now,” Hugo Polanco, a lobbyist for Living United for Change Arizona told Arizona Mirror. “I think it is an indication of what’s to come at the ballot box in November.” 

State troopers removed Polanco from a state Senate committee that was hearing SCR1007 earlier this month after calling the measure racist. More protests were expected Friday, when the House was set to consider HCR2036. 

Recently, LUCHA filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, for removing Polanco and others from the hearing, saying their ability to speak before the committee was improperly silenced by Farnsworth. 

Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of LUCHA, said the group gathered Friday to celebrate “people power.”

“Our people were the ones that led this victory, showing up every single day … at 8:30 a.m. in the morning, staying, listening to every committee hearing, signing up to speak,” Gomez said. 

Gomez was also removed from the meeting by Farnsworth. 

Terán, Polanco and others all agreed that the fight over immigration policies at the state capitol is likely not over.

“It feels good to win,” Terán said to Arizona Mirror. “We have to stay vigilant, we can’t let our guard down.”

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.
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.