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Arizona bills would allow arrest of border crossers

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PHOENIX (AP) — Faced with mounting election-year public pressure to curtail illegal immigration, Arizona lawmakers are trying to expand state trespassing law to enable local authorities to arrest illegal border crossers.

Supporters say the state has to get involved in combating illegal immigration because the federal government has failed in its responsibility. The state is the busiest illicit entry point along the nation's southern border.

One proposal would make it a felony for immigrants violating federal immigration law to be in Arizona. Immigrants arrested for trespassing could then be deported, prosecuted by local authorities, or handed over to federal immigration agents. Another proposal would make immigrant trespassing a top-tier misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Opponents say the proposals will not be effective, noting that a similar strategy flopped last year in New Hampshire because states don't have authority to enforce federal immigration law. A judge dismissed the cases of illegal immigrants arrested on New Hampshire trespassing charges, ruling that the tactic was unconstitutional.