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Arizona governor signs a $500 million border security and wall construction bill

Governor Ducey said the signing fulfills the promise he made to the state to do his part to protect the border in his final term of office.

PHOENIX (CN) — Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a $564 million border security bill Thursday that allocates $335 million in state sales tax revenue to build and maintain a wall along the state's border with Mexico.

House Bill 2317, sponsored by Representative John Kavanagh, a Republican from Fountain Hills, also directs funds to address drug and human trafficking, border surveillance and the prosecution and imprisonment of anyone found committing border-related crimes.

It’s the most the state has spent to address the issue.

The state’s GOP-dominated Legislature pushed the bill through votes along party lines, despite persistent resistance from state Democrats.

State Senator Raquel Terán, a Democrat from Phoenix, denounced the bill during an appropriations committee meeting in March. She argued it lacked a bipartisan endeavor to address change and systemic causes of migrants seeking entrance into the United States.

“President Biden is working with partners in other countries [and] in their region to monitor migration,” she said. “[He worked] with Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, to return migrants to their country of origin while also providing aid and resources to help improve the conditions so migrants can come to make a better life in their own land and not have to make dangerous journeys putting themselves in their families in the hands of smugglers. What we're seeing with these types of bills is [a] focusing on spending taxpayer dollars on Trump's biggest political talking point.”

Ducey, a Republican, dismissed Biden’s efforts at the border as inaction.

“Inaction by President Joe Biden has led to the worst border crisis in over 20 years,” he said in a statement announcing the bill's signing. “Ultimately … securing our border is the responsibility of the federal government. With this investment, we are giving our law enforcement professionals another critical resource they need to successfully do their jobs. We are standing up for the rule of law, and we are cementing Arizona’s commitment to securing our state and our entire nation.”

On top of the border wall earmark, the bill allocates $53.4 million for deputy sheriff compensation and $30 million for local prosecution and imprisonment of drug traffickers and human smugglers.

State Senator David Gowan, a Republican from Sierra Vista, applauded the bill during the March meeting. He claimed activity by drug cartels in his southern Arizona district is at an all-time high and needs an immediate solution.

“They're destroying my communities,” he said. “You got people from Phoenix driving down using these apps now to pick people up, and this federal government does nothing to stop it. The drugs, the human smuggling, rape trees. This is what happens in my communities down there on the border, because we have a federal government in my opinion that's failed its citizens.”

News articles have reported rapists near border towns have begun hanging their migrant victims' undergarments from "rape trees" as trophies.

In May, Ducey called on social media companies to do a better job at monitoring their platforms to prevent individuals from being exploited by drug cartels. According to the Sierra Vista Herald Review, recruiters employed by cartels were offering up to $2,000 per person for help in transporting migrants. 

“Your companies have established reporting mechanisms for criminal behavior, but we need stronger action to prevent this activity that is drawing our young people into a life of crime,” Ducey wrote in the letter. “Inaction only enables cartels to victimize countless youth and families. This crisis presents a real opportunity for you and your companies to take action and make a difference.”

In April, Ducey called on the Biden administration to maintain Title 42, a Trump-era Covid policy that allowed federal officials to turn away asylum seekers under the enforcement of public health measures.

Later that month, attorneys general from Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri sued the Biden administration over the decision to rescind Title 42.

The federal lawsuit referenced bipartisan criticism of the Biden administration for not having a plan to deal with a projected influx of migrants amid economic instability, health concerns and rising crime.

The repeal of Title 42 was stayed, and the border remains closed to migrants under the Covid-era health order.

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