Arizona House Republicans released a new border security plan Wednesday, undermining GOP leaders’ efforts to win approval for the Senate’s package by the end of the week.
The House proposal rejects the Senate’s plan to spend $50 million to buy or lease a radar system that could spot border crossers and $10 million in state money to send National Guard troops to Arizona’s southern border.
Rep. Bill Konopnicki, RSafford, said the Senate bill would be a waste of taxpayer money because Congress is considering a similar proposal that would be a federal expense.
He specifically cited President Bush’s plan to put 6,000 guardsmen on the U.S.-Mexican border and to set up technology to spot crossers.
The House Republicans didn’t include something else in the majority plan: Allowing state and local police to charge illegal immigrants with trespassing.
But the future of the new HB2577 is grim. It has only seven Republican supporters backing it and faces strong opposition, which could leave it short of the necessary 31 House votes for final approval.
Rep. Russell Pearce, RMesa, the lead sponsor of that package, chided his colleagues for wanting to strip the measure of money for National Guard troops and radar.
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on its border security package, but Pearce said state leaders shouldn’t wait for Congress to reach a consensus.
“They may not end up having a bill at all,’’ he said. “So do you wait another 20 years for the federal government?”
The newest alternative in the state Legislature would provide more money to cover overtime for Arizona Department of Public Safety officers. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, R-Sedona, said officers would use that extra time to monitor the border and help spot, but not arrest, border crossers. They could hold the immigrants until Border Patrol agents arrived.
O’Halleran said the new bill would send 120 DPS officers to the border immediately — 20 more people than would be funded with the Senate’s $10 million for National Guard units.
Konopnicki said this approach, rather than creating a new state trespassing crime, would ensure that illegal immigrants are turned over to federal officials. “We don’t have the jail space,’’ he said.
Gov. Janet Napolitano noted the president’s plan relies on federal money to secure the border, so the pending legislation would amount to unnecessary duplication.