State senators voted Thursday to set up an all-volunteer Homeland Security Force separate from the Arizona National Guard. But exactly who could join and what they would do wasn’t specified.
SB1132 would create what essentially amounts to a state militia under the governor’s control. Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, who crafted the measure, said they would be able to respond, under the governor’s orders, to any natural or human-caused disaster.
Harper said they also could be deployed along the border to help spot people coming into the country illegally. Harper was one of the first lawmakers to push to expand the National Guard’s presence in southern Arizona, years before Gov. Janet Napolitano gave her consent.
Harper argued that the state needs another option to respond to a disaster if the federal government has already mobilized the Arizona National Guard. He said nearly two dozen other states have similar militias separate from Guard units.
“There are people out there who would like to volunteer,” he said. “And all they need is a way to be organized and trained prior to a disaster.”
A panel appointed by the governor and legislative leaders would decide how to set up the new force and screen applicants. Harper said training could be done by active Guard units, minimizing costs to the state.
While the Senate was debating this measure, the House was giving preliminary approval to legislation which would make it a crime for people to stand on street corners, sidewalks and private property while seeking work.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said HB2589 is aimed at “day laborers” who congregate around home improvement stores waiting for work — many of them illegal immigrants.
Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, argued the bill is an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment right to assemble.