Rep. Rivero blocks private border wall bill

Rep. Tony Rivero, R-Peoria. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Peoria Republican Tony Rivero cast the deciding vote Thursday, joining with Democrats to defeat a measure spearheaded by a GOP leader that sought to ease construction of a private border wall in Arizona.

Lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives, where Republicans hold the majority by a single vote, were voting on whether to send House Bill 2084 to the Senate. 

The vote split 30-30, with Rivero siding with the 29 House Democrats against the proposal, which is sponsored by House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, a Gilbert Republican.

But the bill isn’t dead: Minutes after the vote, Rivero made a motion for the House to reconsider HB2084. The parliamentary move allows the chamber to re-vote the bill before Feb. 13.

Rivero said Petersen asked him to make the motion so the two could have an opportunity to talk about the proposal. Rivero added that HB2084 does nothing to address border security like its proponents suggest.

“I don’t think this does anything for the issue of border security,” he said. “I believe in supporting security on the border, making sure we are stopping drugs. I don’t think this wall does that… Unless something changes, I’m going to be a no.”

Petersen’s bill would bar cities, towns or counties from requiring a corporation or nonprofit to obtain a building permit for a wall on or adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border if the property owner consents to the project. It also requires property owners to provide an affidavit from an engineer stating the construction met safety requirements within two months of completing construction, and assumes the state will allow construction of a border wall on state property.

The bill cleared the House Federal Relations Committee Jan. 22 on a party-line vote.

Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez said she was glad Rivero sided with Democrats, but was disappointed about his maneuvering to still give the bill a chance to pass. The Yuma Democrat surmised that Rivero would be persuaded to change his vote, allowing the bill to move to the Senate. 

For years, Rivero has spearheaded diplomatic meetings between Arizona and representatives from Mexico and other Latin American countries. He was a key figure in helping establish Arizona’s two new trade offices in Mexico.  

This past weekend, legislators traveled to central Mexico to celebrate the opening of a state trade office in the Guanajuato.  

The Arizona Commerce Authority also recently opened a trade office in Chihuahua, a state that borders Texas and New Mexico.

To get those two offices in place in Mexico and another in Israel, legislators last year approved $475,000 in state funds.

“So, we give them hundreds of thousands of dollars to open an office, and then we are going to build a wall?” Fernandez noted.

Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Rivero.

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.