Rep. Bret Roberts. Submitted photo

State Rep. Bret Roberts (R-11) of Maricopa introduced legislation to strengthen the law against sanctuary cities in Arizona.

If enacted, House Bill 2598 would find any city, town or county that adopted sanctuary-city policies liable for damages against victims of crimes committed by immigrants living in the country illegally. The legislation would allow the state to bill the municipality for the cost of incarceration.

In November, voters defeated an initiative to officially designate Tucson as a sanctuary city and prohibit city law enforcement from checking immigration status. Had the initiative succeeded it would have been in defiance of a controversial provision of SB 1070, which requires authorities to contact federal immigration officers if they have a “reasonable suspicion” an arrested person is in the country illegally.

“Thankfully, voters in Tucson rejected last November’s radical attempt officially allow their city to become a sanctuary city and ignore state law,” Roberts said. “Although these efforts failed in Tucson, it is only a matter of time before liberal activists in other parts of Arizona attempt to replicate this effort. For this reason, I have introduced this bill to strengthen the law and hold cities, towns and counties who ignore our state laws civilly liable for releasing illegal immigrants into our communities.

“The protections being granted to those here illegally is more protection than what we afford our own citizens; it’s time we level the playing field.”

Sanctuary cities are illegal in Arizona, and the current penalty for violating the law can range between $1,000 and $5,000 for every day a city violates the law. In 2016, lawmakers passed legislation that withholds state monies from municipalities that violate state law.

Sanctuary cities were a bullet point in Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address. Ducey said a ballot issue is in the works for November asking voters to go further than adding to revised state statutes and amend the Arizona Constitution.

“Now it’s time for all Arizonans to make their voices heard, and enshrine it in our Constitution,” Ducey said. “T.J. Shope has the ballot referral. This November, let’s give all Arizona voters the opportunity to say yes to the rule of law and No to sanctuary cities.”