BREAKING: Arizona Republicans ram through anti-immigration bill, bypassing public

capitol legislature

floor of the Arizona House of Representatives at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

By Camaron Stevenson

February 28, 2024

Republican legislators passed an anti-immigration bill at breakneck speed Wednesday, cutting out public comment and silencing opposition from other members of the legislature.

Senate Bill 1231 advanced through both chambers of the Arizona legislature in less than a month. The proposal, which would give local law enforcement authority to detain and arrest immigrants with blanket immunity, was subjected to only one public committee meeting.

Typically, bills are assigned to several committees in both the Senate and the House, where members of the public are given time to voice their support or opposition to the bill being discussed. Reducing the number of public hearings a bill is assigned to severely limits the public’s ability to voice their concerns on proposed legislation.

“In a democracy, we allow the public to weigh in and guide our policy-making,” Alejandra Gomez, Executive Director of Living United for Change in Arizona, said in a statement. “Silencing the public and constituents has become as fundamental to the Republican Party’s approach to governing as their hateful policy agenda.”

Legislators were also cut out of the legislative process. In both the Senate and the House, Republican leadership ignored the rules to limit how many lawmakers could speak on a bill. According to the rules of the legislature, “every member shall have the privilege of explaining his vote,” but for SB 1231, Republicans limited it to four speakers: two for the bill, and two against.

And, while it’s required that any suspension of rules be voted on by the entire chamber, there was no vote to strip legislators of their privilege to explain their vote.

“I have not seen this before. The fact that we suspended rules and suspended who could speak for and against SB 1231 is disappointing,” Rep. Cesar Aguilar, D-Phoenix, told The Copper Courier. “When we heard HCR 2060 [House Concurrent Resolution 2060] at the Arizona House of Representatives, we had to open up two additional rooms for community overflow. Republicans want to push people out from getting involved and community input. This is anti-democratic.”

Bills are also required to be discussed in the Rules Committee, where attorneys who work at the capitol go over the legality and constitutionality of proposed legislation. But House Republicans skirted this requirement as well, this time going to the effort to vote to suspend this rule—along with all rules surrounding how bills are debated. SB 1231 was voted on in the Senate Rules Committee, but the meeting was closed to the public, and there is no recording of the Feb. 12 committee meeting.

The decision to cut out public input comes days after more than 100 business and community leaders published a letter in opposition to three anti-immigration proposals: SB 1231, House Bill 2748, and House Concurrent Resolution 2060.

“These proposals will deputize local police and other officials to verify the immigration status of immigrants, and arrest and detain otherwise law-abiding immigrant workers as they drive to work, church, and their children to school. They will generate fear and erode trust between immigrants and local police,” the letter states. “We need real solutions to our broken immigration system, not election-year scapegoating.”

While HCR 2060 and HB 2748 have yet to be debated in the state Senate, SB 1231 has passed in both chambers and will now be sent to Gov. Katie Hobbs. Hobbs has spoken out against all three bills, calling them “political stunts,” and her office has stated she will not sign them into law.


  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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