“It’s tough to propose new illegal immigration bills in Arizona,” one state senator told the New York Times this week, “because we’ve pretty much done them all.” Unexhausted by the effort, the Arizona legislature is putting forward a new bill aimed at immigrants in the country illegally, with provisions to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities” and change the way some immigrants are sentenced for crimes. Specifically, the fill calls for unauthorized immigrants to receive the maximum sentence for any crime they are convicted of, stripping judges of discretion in those cases."
And the people suffer. And the people have a long history of suffering.
PHOENIX — When Doug Ducey ran for governor of this border state, he accused President Obama of “dithering far too long” on immigration and vowed to “fight back” against illegal border crossers, pledging to use every resource at his command: “fencing, satellites, guardsmen, more police and prosecutors.”
Now in his second year as the governor of Arizona — a state at the forefront of immigration and border issues, with a growing Latino population — Mr. Ducey, a Republican, has done none of that. He has avoided pressures from his party’s presidential candidates even after one of them, Donald J. Trump, twice visited the state to promote the “big” and “beautiful” wall he said he would build to keep illegal immigrants away if he was elected.
“I want this state to be known for what it is, the land of opportunity,” Mr. Ducey said in an interview. “So our main focus is our economy and our education system.”
But he may soon have to wade into the divisive immigration debate, which is again coloring Arizona’s legislative session and bringing angry crowds of protesters to the Capitol’s lawn and hearing rooms.
One bill would punish communities that offer sanctuary to unauthorized immigrants facing deportation; those communities’ share of state revenues would be withheld. Another measure would require judges to sentence undocumented immigrants to the fullest possible term in prison for whatever crime they committed. A Senate committee approved both on Feb. 3 in party-line votes.
A third bill, which would impose citizenship and legal residency requirements for municipal identification cards, cleared three Senate committees in three weeks with blanket support from Republican lawmakers, underscoring their priorities here in an election year.
“It’s tough to propose new illegal immigration bills in Arizona, because we’ve pretty much done them all,” said State Senator John Kavanagh, a retired Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officer who found a second calling as a leading conservative in Arizona.
Already, the state has one of the nation’s toughest stances on illegal immigration. It has battled in state and federal courts to deny driver’s licenses and in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who were granted deferred deportation by Mr. Obama. It is home to Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, who made a name for himself as an unapologetic pursuer of unauthorized migrants. And it ushered in a harsh new wave of immigration enforcement when it gave the police broad powers to question anyone suspected of being in the country illegally — passing the “show me your papers” law in 2010.
Mr. Kavanagh was among the crucial supporters of the measure, which Mr. Ducey’s predecessor, Jan Brewer, approved. The legislation divided a state already scarred by years of targeted enforcement against Latinos, who make up one-third of the population.
The municipal identification bill, which Mr. Kavanagh also sponsored, “is primarily to protect the integrity of government ID cards,” he said, “but it does have an impact on illegal immigration, because it prevents illegal immigrants from getting one of those cards.”
Mr. Ducey has not said a word about this or the other immigration bills. But people on both sides of the immigration debate are eagerly awaiting any action he might take on the measures. They could serve as a litmus test for his positions on the subject, which, as governor, he has deftly avoided articulating.
If the bills hit Mr. Ducey’s desk, “will he sign them?” asked State Senator Martín J. Quezada, a Democratic leader in the Republican-controlled Legislature, whose district includes the Maryvale section of Phoenix, where three in four residents are Latino. “Remember, just because he can, it doesn’t mean that he should.”
Mr. Ducey is “focused on the priorities he laid out in his State of the State address” on Jan. 11, said his spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato. They include overhauling Arizona’s beleaguered foster care system and opening a corrections center to offer intensive drug treatment and other services to certain inmates in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous.
He also proposed spending $31.5 million to send 200 state troopers after drug smugglers along the border, the only border-related program he has championed so far. The scope of the effort is a far cry from the $800 million that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, also a Republican, secured from his state’s Legislature last year to extend indefinitely the deployment of National Guard troops and air and ground surveillance along the Rio Grande Valley, which has faced questions over its cost and results.
“Our goal, because of limited resources, was going after what was most hurtful, and that was why we went after the drug cartels,” Mr. Ducey said in the interview, drawing a distinction between his and Mr. Abbott’s approaches.
And while Mr. Abbott explained his plan as necessary to counter the federal government’s “apathetic response to border security,” Mr. Ducey characterized his plan for state troopers to target drug smugglers as “adding state muscle” to the 4,000 federal Border Patrol agents in Arizona.
“Where there’s an opportunity to work together to get results for the citizens of the state of Arizona, to increase public safety,” he said, “I think that’s my responsibility as governor to take advantage.”
Mr. Ducey had the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, R. Gil Kerlikowske, an Obama appointee, by his side when he announced the border program from the State Capitol in November. That was a clear departure from Ms. Brewer, who is still well remembered for wagging a finger at Mr. Obama on an airport tarmac.
In an interview, Ms. Brewer said her successor should use his bully pulpit to “tell the federal government to secure our border, then we can deal with all the other problems that are upon us as a country.”
He has been handing out olive branches instead.
When Mr. Ducey met Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson early last year, he said by way of introduction, “This is a new administration, and I’d like a fresh start.” In June, Mr. Ducey led a trade mission to Mexico City, the first Arizona governor to do so in a decade, then traveled to Sonora, Mexico, three months later to attend the inauguration of his counterpart across the border.
Immigration advocates have been cautiously watching from the sidelines, unsure what to make of him just yet.
“At least he isn’t using the hate speech we heard so often from Governor Brewer,” said Viridiana González, who leads a coalition of community groups opposing Mr. Kavanagh’s bill, after a protest of the legislation last month.
State Representative Bruce Wheeler, a Democrat from Tucson who is assistant minority whip, said in an interview, “I don’t know if what we’re witnessing is a change in substance or a change of style, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Mr. Ducey made no mention of illegal immigrants as he outlined his border proposal, which he carefully framed around the heavy toll heroin addiction has exacted in Arizona.
“This is not Arizona’s problem,” Mr. Ducey said. “This is America’s problem.”