On Wednesday, Jan 24, Arizona Senate Republicans announced a new border security plan, including a new bill sponsored by Senator Janae Shamp. Senate Bill 1231, known as the Arizona Border Invasion Act, would authorize enforcement officials to arrest anyone they suspect to have illegally crossed the border. It would make it a crime for undocumented people crossing from Mexico into Arizona if it’s not from a port of entry, classifying this act as a class 1 misdemeanor.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Sen. Shamp said “Joe Biden and his administration have made it unequivocally clear that they have abandoned their duties to enforce immigration policy at the federal level.” It is what led to the Arizona Border Invasion Act.
The Arizona-Mexico border is 370 miles long. The border wall has gaps throughout the fence reaching 226 miles long. There are six ports of entry along the border, with Nogales having the highest number of truck crossings. Arizona has two U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sectors, Tucson and Yuma.
The Tucson sector reportedly has the third-highest number of illegal crossings along the entire US-Mexico border. There were 373,625 migrant encounters in the Tucson sector for the 2023 fiscal year. The Yuma sector reported 174,201 migrant encounters for the fiscal year.
Both Republican and Democrat politicians in Arizona have categorized the current situation at the border as a crisis. Officials have been short-handed at the Arizona border, so much so that migrants have been transferred from Tucson to multiple Texas border cities for processing through charter flights. Towards the end of December, the Arizona National Guard was sent to the border to help with more resources.
"The border's got no management right now,” said Cochise Sheriff Mark Dannels. He says it’s only getting worse.
There has been an increase in the number of families crossing the border. Across the country, the number of families went from 482,962 in 2022 to 621,311 in 2023. In comparison, while the number of single adults coming into the country is still significantly more, it is declining. In 2022, the number of single adults crossing the border was 1.6 million and dropped to 1.3 million in 2023. About 60% of migrants coming into Tucson and Yuma sectors were families.
Colleen Putzel, an analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, said that one reason why there has been an increase in family encounters at the border is that they are not being currently detained by CBP. “Statistically speaking, your chances as coming as a family are probably higher to be released into the U.S,” said Putzel. She says that children being a vulnerable population makes the release and processing process quicker.
A spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform Ira Mehlman says that the reason there is an increase in family migration at the border is due to flaws in the border policy by the Biden administration. She says as long as the policy upholds the high probability that people will be released if they come with kids, “we’re going to keep seeing this.”
Migrants have resorted to crossing in more remote areas, like in Lukeville, AZ. Lukeville has a port of entry in the Tucson sector of the state. The surge of crossings in Lukeville prompted the CBP to shut down the port and redirect officers to help with processing and transportation in other ports of entry in the state. The port of entry was closed for one month, from Dec 4, 2023, to Jan 4, 2024. The closure economically affected both sides of the border as tourism and traveling play a crucial role in both countries in this area.
The Biden administration has taken 535 immigration-related actions within his three years of presidency. He has surpassed the 472 immigration actions that former President Donald Trump took within his four years in office. Due to this, immigration has increased and has surpassed pre-pandemic numbers in terms of migrants and refugee admissions. The majority of asylum seekers come from Venezuela, followed by Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua.
There were about 2.5 million migrants that crossed into the US at the southern border in 2023. It is a 4% increase compared to 2022, a 40% increase since 2021, and a 100% increase from 2019.
Because of this, Republicans across the country have labeled the current government border policy a failure. Republican Senators James Lankford (OK), Tom Cotton (AR), and Linsey Graham (SC) drafted a one-page plan calling for asylum reform, parole reform, and more border security.
The Arizona Border Invasion Act would be similar to Texas’ Lone Star Operation. It is a similar act introduced to combat the current crisis at the border and a response to Biden’s open border policies. The bill has been compared to the 2010 SB1070, or the “show me your papers” law that allowed officials to detain drivers based on suspicion of their legal status. The US Supreme Court shut down that bill, stating that only the federal government has the authority to enforce immigration laws. The outcome of SB1231 is still yet to come.
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