Ducey on sanctuary cities: We’ve done ‘all we’re going to do’

Gov. Doug Ducey on Jan. 29, 2020. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Gov. Doug Ducey signaled Monday he doesn’t support a bill that defines sanctuary cities in state law, requires compliance with immigration detainers and allows crime victims to sue local governments that don’t comply with state immigration enforcement laws. 

On Feb. 20, Ducey abandoned legislation to amend the state constitution that his office helped craft to expand immigration enforcement, which was called a ban on sanctuary cities. His about-face came just six weeks after he enthusiastically called for such measures in his state of the state speech, after mounting pressure from Latino leaders and the business community.

On Monday, Ducey declined to call out House Bill 2598, but linked the bill to his decision to stop pushing increased immigration enforcement last month. 

“There are no sanctuary cities in Arizona. I don’t comment on legislation as it’s traveling through the legislature, but you can look at what we’ve already done on this issue,” he said. “We did what we did two weeks ago, that’s all we’re going to do. I’ve said what we’ve done on this, and that’s where our position is going to stay.” 

The legislation is co-sponsored by all Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives. It was presumed dead after the decision to kill other legislative measures addressing so-called sanctuary city policies, but was approved Feb. 26 by the House Rules Committee and discussed in legislative caucuses later that day. 

The measure is ready for consideration by the full House. 

Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, the bill’s sponsor, told Arizona Mirror on Feb. 29 that he expects the House to take up HB2598 soon.

But the broad coalition of business groups, Latino leaders and philanthropic, education and community groups that fought Ducey’s proposed constitutional amendment are also rallying to oppose Roberts’s bill. They consider the immigration enforcement proposals a backwards legislative move to 2010, when the Arizona legislature passed SB1070, a largely unconstitutional bill on immigration enforcement. 

“We remain concerned that divisive policies such as HB2598 undermine the social fabric of our state, divert attention from the most pressing issues facing our elected leaders, and threaten Arizona’s image as a welcoming and inclusive place for all,” Glenn Wike, senior director of strategy and public policy for the Arizona Community Foundation, said in an email. 

In a statement, Neil Giuliano from Greater Phoenix Leadership also said HB2598 would be harmful to the state. 

“Like the sanctuary city ban referral bill, HB2598 is unnecessary and does reputation harm to our great state,” he said. In the statement, Giuliano also referenced a bill that would ban transgender students from participating in their preffered teams.   

“The same is true for (HB)2706; these fringe bills don’t represent opportunity for all Arizona and the tremendous advancement we will continue to experience by working together,” he said. 

During a Republican caucus discussion of HB2598 on Feb. 26, there was no apparent opposition to the measure. 

Roberts said “simply put,” his proposal would hold elected officials accountable when they don’t fully cooperate with immigration agents. 

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the bill would add teeth to the state’s law that prohibits local governments from adopting or implementing “a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigrations laws (…) to less than the full extent permitted by federal law,” which is often referred to as Arizona’s current ban on sanctuary cities.

“These are for really bad actors that committed bad crimes against our citizens, which would not occur if the municipality had complied with state law that requires full cooperation with the federal government on immigration matters,” he said. 

While HB2598 is written more narrowly than Ducey’s proposed constitutional amendment, the impact would be the same, said Lisa Urias, a business leader who also is a member of the board of directors of the Arizona Community Foundation, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Greater Phoenix Leadership.  

“All of the organizations that weighed in against the (amendment)… They have the same exact feeling about (HB)2598,” Urias said. She added Roberts’s measure is unnecessary, and its liability measures are concerning. 

Besides defining a sanctuary jurisdiction and requiring compliance with immigration detainers, the bill would create civil penalties for government officials, state agencies or law enforcement officers who intentionally or knowingly fail to comply with an immigration detainer. 

It also would allow victims of certain felonies that resulted from that failed immigration enforcement compliance to sue for civil damages. And it states that the jurisdiction that didn’t check the immigration status of a person or didn’t comply with a detainer of the person who went on to commit a crime has to reimburse the state correctional agency for the cost of incarcerating the person. 

“There are all kinds of people who should be very concerned about the financial impact of this,” Urias said. “How is law enforcement supposed to handle real crime when they are facing these lawsuits?”

She said the state shouldn’t require cities and counties to use local resources for federal immigration enforcement. 

“Federal law enforcement should put their own budgets and enforcement officials around whatever laws they create,” Urias said. “We need to pay for transportation, education, air quality issues. We shouldn’t put any burden on (cities and counties).” 

But not all who opposed the constitutional amendment to increase immigration enforcement requirements and ban sanctuary cities are against HB2598.

Rep. Tony Rivero, a Peoria Republican, had voiced opposition to the amendment, but he told the Mirror he backs Roberts’s measure because it is less permanent than adding something to the state constitution, which can only be done by voters. 

“My concerns (with the amendment) is once a referral goes to the ballot and it were to pass, we can’t change it. If (HB2598) were to pass, the next legislature could address any issues with it,” he said. 

Rivero added he has concerns about how HB2598 would damage the trust between immigration communities and law enforcement, and whether it hurts the state’s reputation. But he still stands by the proposal. 

“The groups that have reached out to me are concerned this is a wedge issue that is going to divide our community, but it’s an ongoing conversation,” he said. 

Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of Living United for Change Arizona, said Republican legislators are challenging Ducey and legislative leadership by moving HB2598 forward.  

“These bills were already announced dead last week, through the efforts of a strategically aligned coalition,” she said. “Our partners are standing against the SB1070+ package which includes 2598, that’s why we’re vigilant. We don’t think this is going to go very far.”

Randy Perez, democracy director for LUCHA, called it a “zombie bill.” 

“It would be a real slap in the face for Governor Ducey and legislative allies to allow this to go to a vote,” he said. “To the Latino community, the business community, our partners in Mexico … All those people would be shocked and appalled if the governor went back in his word, if the legislature went back on its word, and would still vote on this bill.”