Arizona Voters Will Weigh Ballot Initiative To Make Illegal Border Crossing a State Crime

Law enforcement could arrest those they suspect of crossing into the state illegally—and they’d be “immune from liability for damages.”


This November, Arizonans will consider a ballot measure that would make it a state crime to cross the Arizona-Mexico border illegally. If it passes, law enforcement would be authorized to arrest people suspected of crossing the border illegally, and state judges would be able to order deportations.

House Concurrent Resolution 2060, which passed the Arizona House yesterday 31–29 in a party-line vote, argues that Arizona "is being 'actually invaded' as defined in article I, section 10" of the U.S. Constitution. Along with empowering law enforcement in the state to arrest undocumented immigrants who cross into Arizona illegally, HCR 2060 creates penalties for people who "present false documents to obtain public benefits or to evade workplace eligibility detection" as determined by the federal E-Verify program. It also strengthens penalties for people who sell fentanyl resulting in death.

Those crossing the border illegally for the first time would face a misdemeanor charge under HCR 2060, punishable by up to six months in prison. Those previously convicted of a crossing violation would face felony charges and could face several years in prison. State and local officials or employees would be "immune from liability for damages" arising from actions committed under the law.

If approved by voters in November, HCR 2060 wouldn't go into effect until a bill in Texas—Senate Bill 4—has been effective for 60 days. Much of Arizona's HCR 2060 is modeled after Texas' S.B. 4: Both create a state crime for illegal border crossing and both would provide immunity for officers tasked with enforcement. And both have sparked widespread concerns about economic, legal, and societal consequences.

"HCR 2060 is detrimental and an attack on the business community," said Bob Worsley, co-chair of the American Business Immigration Coalition Action and former Republican Arizona state senator, in a statement. "This measure not only undermines the stability and growth of our businesses but also fails to recognize the contributions of long-term, hardworking immigrants."

The Grand Canyon Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimated that it could cost $325 million annually for Arizona to implement HCR 2060. That figure breaks down to $185 million to enforce the state-level border-crossing crime, based on what Texas has spent on its implementation of a similar policy, and $140 million to enforce the E-Verify provision, based on estimates of how many undocumented people may be targeted for prosecution and detained. (Arizona already faces a budget deficit of $1.3 billion, the Arizona Mirror has pointed out.)

A report prepared by Arizona's Joint Legislative Budget Committee listed three main fiscal impacts. First, state and local law enforcement spending would increase to cover arrest, prosecution, and incarceration costs. Second, though "state and local public benefit and education spending" could decline, "state and local governments could incur higher administrative costs." And third, lower immigration rates would reduce tax collection at the state and local levels.

Critics of HCR 2060 warn that it could lead to racial profiling, comparing the bill to 2010's S.B. 1070, which required police to investigate people's immigration status and made it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally. (Some lawmakers who disagree with that concern have pointed to the bill's provision requiring police to have "probable cause" before arresting someone.) What's more, a May report by the Associated Press noted that "the tab for the legal and compliance costs in overhauling the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office," which carried out immigration crackdowns under Sheriff Joe Arpaio that eventually led to a racial profiling verdict, "is expected to reach $314 million by mid-summer 2025."

Arizona's HCR 2060 is one of several state-based immigration bills introduced recently. While courts weigh the legality of those passed by Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma, Arizona voters will have a direct say in whether their state joins the crackdown effort—with all the economic and social damage it could entail.