Arizona considers tough new law for undocumented immigrants

Lawmakers in Arizona are debating a tough new bill that would force undocumented immigrants to stay in jail for a much longer period of time than has previously been the case until they are given over to federal immigration authorities. Critics argue that it is discriminatory and is likely to put the state at the forefront of the heated national debate over immigration, while supporters say that current laws are just too lenient against undocumented immigrants who have already been convicted of a criminal offence.

The Republican Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey, has been sent the bill to review, though as yet there is no indication as to whether he will pass the proposed legislation into state law. Ducey, who formerly served as the chief executive officer of Cold Stone Creamery, took office last year in a bid to make the state more business-friendly and moderate, and has yet to have to deal with the controversial topic of immigration.

House Bill 2451 would see undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a criminal offence forced to complete 85 percent of their sentence until they can be handed over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement by the Arizona Department of Corrections. At the moment, most such individuals will be turned over after serving no more than half of their sentences.

Up to 1000 inmates could be affected by the new law if it passes, which comes six years after the state’s notorious anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070, most of which was later struck down in federal court.