"You demonstrated a clear understanding of the issues and challenges facing business in Phoenix. We believe you are committed to fostering a healthy economic climate in support of business in Greater Phoenix."

- Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, 2006 Endorsement letter to Barbara Leff


News Room


June 15, 2006 (State Capitol, Phoenix) – The Governor has vetoed Senator Leff's bill (SB 1157) establishing trespassing by illegal aliens as a state crime. The veto message stated law enforcement agencies are opposed to this bill because it "would divert Arizona's law enforcement resources." The bill did not require law enforcement to do anything they would not normally do in the course of their regular duties but would have allowed them to detain the illegal aliens they apprehend.

SB 1157 addressed the problem of "catch and release," which happens every day. Current, when local law enforcement officers find people streaming across the border, raid a drop house or stop a vehicle filled with illegal immigrants, they can do nothing unless federal authorities are willing to respond. Violators cannot be detained because Arizona’s law enforcement does not have the authority to detain people for violations of federal immigration law.  

Had SB 1157 been enacted, authorities would have been able to arrest the violators under the new State law, and either refer them for prosecution or transfer them to the Federal agency with jurisdiction. This would have created a second line of defense when illegal immigrants evade Federal authorities and enter Arizona.

Under SB1157, the arresting authority would be required to fingerprint a person detained for violating this law and then either refer the person for prosecution of a Class 1 misdemeanor or transfer the person to Federal authorities. If arrested a second time, the person would have be automatically referred for prosecution of a Class 6 felony. If found with drugs, precursor chemicals to make methamphetamine, weapons or property that could be used to commit a terrorist act, the person would have been charged with a Class 2 felony.

The Legislature has deemed illegal immigration a top priority and funding for enforcement is contained in other bills going through the appropriation process at this time. With this veto, however, should money be provided later this session, law enforcement will still not have the authority to act.

This bill was designed to give law enforcement a tool to address the problems associated with illegal immigration. Continuing to let illegal immigrants go free after apprehending them in the desert, at a drop house or in a van is not in the best interest of the public.

SB 1157 represented an opportunity to do something meaningful to help protect Arizona. Her veto is an opportunity missed.