Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey signed 17 bills into law this week, three controversial immigration bills among them. HB-2451, arguably the most controversial of them, would require immigrants who are in the country illegally to serve longer sentences.
The bill would require illegal immigrants in prison to serve up to 85 percent of their sentences before they are released to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This would mainly affect low and mid-level felons, since people convicted of murder and similar serious felonies are never eligible for early release.
When the felons are transferred to ICE, the agency prioritizes the deportation of illegal immigrant felons, which means that they might serve little of their conviction if the state is required to release them immediately for deportation. Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, agrees, saying: “The current law is an absurd law and this creates a terrible injustice in our system.”
This bill is a toned down version of the much more disputed SB 1070 which Republicans tried to pass into effect in 2010 but has since lost traction and fallen to obscurity after several court battles and clamor.
The governor has stood by the bill and stated that he is trying to hold everyone to the same standard of justice. “While some have tried to play politics with this law enforcement issue, the reality is this is a sensible public safety measure that ensures we have one justice system that applies to all,” said Ducey.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, argued the bill would cost the state more money to incarcerate the prisoners for longer periods of time. “This is another example of a bill where our zeal to be harsh on immigrants and criminals doesn’t necessarily translate into good public policy,” he said, while the bill was being argued on the Senate floor.
Protesters have also been arrested for chaining themselves to the front of the entrance to the executive tower demanding the governor veto what they consider an anti-immigration bill.