Let me preface this by saying that the criticism of SB1225 has a lot to do with who runs Arizona right now, especially law enforcement such as Sheriff Joe “proud to be called a KKK member” Arpaio and Paul “interviews with white supremacist radio” Babeu.
Otherwise it might seem a simple harmless bill. One’s perspective of it also depends a lot on their previous experience dealing with these types of issues and how similar bills in the past have been used not in theory, but in reality.
Suffice it to say there will be a culture clash coming over SB1225 coming up this session.
What is SB1225?
The entire bill is actually really short, and I can post the entirety below:
On the surface it says no forgery allowed, and if the forgery has to do with a drop house and human smuggling, then you get in even more trouble.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Kyrsten Sinema:
The bill allows police and prosecutors to target the “front man” for violent human smuggling rings. These criminal syndicates prey on immigrants, hold them ransom for exorbitant amounts of money, and often assault and even rape the victims while they’re in drophouses. This bill will allow police and prosecutors to go after the local accomplice who is setting up the drophouse.
My hope is that by increasing the penalty for these offenders, we can get them to cooperate and give information to police and prosecutors about who else is running these criminal cartels with them.
Here’s a possible scenario. A drophouse exists but since all the documents are forged, such as the rental agreements, things appear to be ok on the surface. There is no cause to investigate the home without further evidence.
However this bill allows the penalty to be increased, so now police can enter and save potential rape victims and those being smuggled, so this bill is actually pro-immigrant, right?
The key word in Sinema’s reasoning is the word “hope.” In a “regular” state, when Sinema says “my hope is that…” her reasoning would be perfectly fine.
But the reality is that the law enforcement is run by the likes of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Paul Babeu, and the top lawyer in the state is Tom Horne. And actually, the definition of drop houses and human smuggling under the law are rooted in anti-immigration.
Can this bill be used for anti-immigrant purposes?
Yes, very easily, and in fact previous similar bills have done so.
Sinema’s bill, SB1225, is up in committee this week. Her co-sponsors are Linda Gray, Ron Gould, Michelle Reagan, Sylvia Allen, Nancy Barto, Andy Biggs, Scott Bundgard, Rich Crandall and Adam Drigg. Yes, these are all Republicans. 9 Republicans with a Democrat sponsor means this bill will most likely be passed.
You may remember Linda Gray who made national news recently for suggesting that Roe vs Wade (abortion) contributed to the Tucson shootings.
The last time they passed a human smuggling bill, Jonathan Paton’s bill, Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe used it to arrest Mexicans for smuggling themselves into the country. From the Tucson Weekly:
In 2005, Paton pushed through a law that created stiff new penalties for human traffickers who smuggle people across the border.
When the bill was heard in committee, critics warned that it would allow police to arrest not only coyotes who smuggle immigrants for profit, but also anyone who drove around a friend or relative. In response, Paton insisted that it was narrowly targeted at smugglers. In the end, the bill was one of the few immigration measures signed into law by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Sounds like current reasoning on SB1225 right?
But after it became law, then-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, the controversial Republican who is now running for Arizona attorney general, began using the bill to charge illegal immigrants with conspiring to smuggle themselves into the country. The prosecutions faced a legal challenge, but courts ruled that Thomas was on solid legal ground with his use of the statute.
As the legal fight over the interpretation of the law was underway, Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini quoted Paton as saying that he “gave (the governor and other lawmakers) my word that (the law) was only to go after the smugglers. We probably wouldn’t have gotten the votes and (Gov. Janet Napolitano’s) signature to get it passed into law.” And Paton told the Phoenix New Times that going after illegal immigrants “was not part of my plan.”
Arpaio, whose deputies arrested illegal immigrants alongside smugglers under Paton’s law, recently told conservative blogger Jim Kelley that Paton “helped pass the law that goes after the coyotes, but he doesn’t want to follow through with arresting the low-level guys.”
Paton maintains that he never objected to Thomas’ use of the law, although he admits telling reporters that the bill was not designed to go after illegal immigrants themselves—because if it had been, the bill would have been vetoed by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano.
“I was asked if it was written with the intention of prosecuting the illegals themselves, and I answered that truthfully: That’s not the way it was originally written,” Paton says. “I didn’t stop it from being enforced that way after the bill was passed. And that same exact year, I voted for an anti-trespassing law that created a felony for entering the country illegally.”
My prediction is that SB1225 will play out the same way, and that Sinema will say that was not her intention, but it doesn’t matter. We live in Arizona and have to think twice before giving law enforcement such as Sheriff Arpaio any new powers in dealing with immigration.
What is a drop house?
ARS 13-2322. Unlawful transactions involving drop house properties; classification; definition
C. For the purposes of this section, “drop house” means property or real property that is used to facilitate smuggling pursuant to section 13-2319.
Below I will post 13-2319, which gives what you might normally think of as evil drop houses. No one would agree that these types of places should exist.
However in the legal definition of “smuggling” the following problem arises:
ARS 13-2319. Smuggling; classification; definitions
3. “Smuggling of human beings” means the transportation, procurement of transportation or use of property or real property by a person or an entity that knows or has reason to know that the person or persons transported or to be transported are not United States citizens, permanent resident aliens or persons otherwise lawfully in this state or have attempted to enter, entered or remained in the United States in violation of law.
This is exactly the problem and what makes this an anti-immigration bill.
If you have undocumented persons living with you, or if you are giving them a ride to the store, or picking them up because they are dying in the middle of the desert, you are now a felon!
This is not a theoretical situation such as the infamous “ticking time bomb” used to justify torture. This situation arises frequently with immigrants and their families who are here legally.
True story: My brother gave his neighbor of 9 years, who has 3 US born children, a ride to the junkyard to pick up some parts for his car out in Marana. Border Patrol pulled them over. It turns out the neighbor of nearly a decade didn’t have his papers, so he was deported, leaving his 3 children at home without their father.
My brother was charged with “human smuggling.”
Charges were dropped, but his car was immediately impounded, and after a few weeks they signed the paperwork to let him get his car back, but by then the charges were nearly a thousand dollars. He couldn’t work (in Marana no car means no job) he couldn’t pay the fines, and so he lost his car and job for being a Good Samaritan and helping out his neighbor.
I know other cases similar to this. It makes it seems like there is an epidemic of “human smuggling” when in fact people are just giving rides or letting people stay with them.
What happens when you have an undocumented person staying with you? Your house is now a “drop house.”
I do not think SB1225 is a necessary bill and I actually think it is a harmful bill. I know her heart is in the right place, but this is Arpaio’s Arizona after all, and these definitions just allow for more anti-immigration police actions to take place.
It did with Paton’s bill and it will with Sinema’s new bill. Then again, when you have 9 Republicans as co-sponsors with no Democrats, that’s the first sign the bill is no good.
Yes, perhaps in some cases it can be used to stop rape in drop houses, but it will most commonly be used to confiscate cars and houses which are being used for “human smuggling” and “drop houses” when Mexican-Americans are really just helping out their Mexican brothers and sisters, even if they have no papers.
My advice is to stop with the immigration bills and focus on the budget.