Phoenix/ Politics & Govt
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Published on March 01, 2024
Arizona's House Passes Bill Allowing Property Owners to Use Deadly Force on Trespassing MigrantsSource: Unsplash/ Diane Picchiottino

The Arizona House has given the nod to a contentious bill that would grant property owners the right to use lethal force against undocumented immigrants trespassing on their land. According to ABC15, the proposed legislation, House Bill 2843, seeks to broaden the state's "Castle Doctrine" by extending the right to use deadly force beyond the confines of one's home to include any part of their property, igniting fears of legitimized violence and unchecked vigilantism among critics.

The contentious bill brought forward by Republican state Rep. Justin Heap would empower Arizonians to presumably shoot first despite the presence of imminent threat when facing an individual they suspect to be an illegal migrant, this expansion comes in the wake of an incident where Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly was charged with the murder of an unarmed migrant on his property, with critics voicing deep concerns that the proposed law would effectively sanction murder and encourage racial profiling. Democratic state Rep. Analise Ortiz told NBC News, "This is part of a broader anti-immigrant movement that we've seen coming from the right, which aims to dehumanize and vilify people who are coming to this country seeking asylum."

The bill's trajectory has been closely monitored as it managed to pass the Republican-led House by a narrow margin, 31-28, with Democrats standing firmly in opposition. Critics have pointed out that the legislation blurs the lines between self-defense and aggression, with Chandler-based personal injury trial lawyer Tom Ryan asserting that the bill's language could potentially allow property owners to preemptively kill someone they believe might enter their land illegally. Despite the tension surrounding its potential effects, the bill's architect, Heap, has shunned repeated requests for comment by ABC15.

The bill's future, however, hangs in the balance as Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs is anticipated to veto it should it come to her desk; the governor has been vocal in her critique of such immigration-related bills, decrying them as strategies aimed at garnering "cheap political points". Amidst a national conversation on immigration that sees President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump making visits to Texas for border-related activities, Arizona finds itself at the epicenter of politically charged debates with ramifications that reverberate far beyond its borders, with Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee spokesperson Abhi Rahman dubbing the bill's approval as bringing the GOP "one step closer to legalizing murder" in a statement to NBC News.

This legislative effort comes as Arizona experiences a notable uptick in migrant encounters, up 149.6% this January over January 2023, according to statistics from the Customs and Border Patrol sector in Tucson. The state, which has been a battleground for controversial immigration laws in the past, such as SB1070, is witnessing the resounding voice of its Latino community, which played a pivotal role in flipping Arizona for Biden in 2020. Rep. Ortiz encapsulates this sentiment vigorously stating, "So if Republicans think they can play the same old tricks they played in 2011, they are sorely mistaken. Our Latino community will come out in force," in her discussion with NBC News, suggesting that the fight against the bill is far from over and that the community’s political engagement will continue to challenge such legislative actions.