Ruben Navarrette: In the race for terrible immigration solutions, Arizona now tops – West Central Tribune

SAN DIEGO — Despite everything else happening in the country and around the globe, many Americans are still concerned with immigration.

To capitalize on this, Republican lawmakers and governors in Texas, Louisiana and Iowa want to “criminalize” the presence of illegal immigrants and empower local and state police to arrest anyone they suspect is an undocumented immigrant.

This effort to transform local and state law enforcement officers into a makeshift force of replacement border patrol agents is part of a larger trend in which Republican lawmakers across the country are suddenly taking on the task of solving the immigration crisis.

By the way, for all their bluster and fire-breathing, it's strange that conservatives always seem to avoid coming up with the obvious solution: a crackdown on U.S. employers who hire undocumented people. No jobs, no migrants. Of course, a crackdown on employers could unnerve those in the business community who pour money into the campaign coffers of Republican elected officials. That could be why this tactic is never talked about.

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The framers of the Constitution were wise to place the making of U.S. immigration policy under federal jurisdiction. They must have felt that the states were not up to the task.

When they wrote the founding document in 1787, it was as if they had looked into the future and realized that 125 years later in 1912, the union would welcome a wild problem child named “Arizona” into the family. Each time, the Grand Canyon State plays the role of federal agent — trying to enforce federal immigration law, build part of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, recruit local law enforcement officers to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants, etc. — it screws up the operation.

Now Arizona appears poised to slip up again. A barbaric bill is being advanced in the state legislature that, believe it or not, would allow anyone who owns property along the U.S.-Mexico border to threaten to kill anyone, or actually kill if necessary kill who crosses the property while illegally entering the United States border. The bill is supported by Republican Rep. Justin Heap, who claimed in a recent committee hearing that it would help ranchers protect their land.

This legislation is not about protection. It's about power.

The bill would allow ranchers who feel threatened to shoot and kill a suspected trespasser anywhere on their property, regardless of how far the person is from the front door of the rancher's home. And if the ranch is 10,000 acres and an encounter occurs on the edge of the property line, it's hard to argue that the rancher was defending his home when he pulled the trigger.

Heap claims his bill addresses the problem of “increasing numbers of migrants or human traffickers moving across farm and ranch land.”

Even under the so-called Castle Doctrine, which applies in many states – including Arizona – and allows a person to threaten deadly force to stop someone from criminally trespassing on their property, there are limits. For example, many of these laws allow homeowners to use deadly force only when defending themselves or another person. The proposed law would give property owners more leeway – and power.

The only hope for decency and sanity is Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, who should veto the bill if it reaches her desk.

A lawyer friend of mine who lives in Phoenix and follows the immigration issue closely was the one who first pointed out to me that this migrant murder law was based on actual events. An Arizona rancher named George Alan Kelly was recently tried for second-degree murder for the January 2023 shooting of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, an undocumented immigrant who was mysteriously found dead on Kelly's property. The rancher claimed he only fired warning shots and had no idea where the bullets landed.

This week, an Arizona judge declared the case invalid after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision after more than two days of deliberations. The Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office could decide to refile the charges, but that is unlikely. So the 75-year-old rancher is a free man, at least for now.

Ironically, immigration opponents fear that by accepting so many migrants, the United States will become a third world country and a lawless banana republic.

Guess what? Arizona is already there.

This commentary is the opinion of Ruben Navarrette. He can be reached at [email protected].

© 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group


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Ruben Navarrette

Opinion by Ruben Navarrette

Ruben Navarrette is the most read Latino columnist in the country and the 16th most popular columnist in America, according to Media Matters. He is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group, whose twice-weekly column appears in nearly 150 newspapers, contributes to USA Today and FOXNEWS.COM, and is a columnist for the Daily Beast.

Mr. Navarrette can be reached at [email protected].

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