PHOENIX, Ariz. (Feb. 18, 2016) – An Arizona bill that would prohibit state cooperation with some contentious federal refugee resettlement programs passed an important House committee yesterday. If ultimately passed into law, the legislation would take a significant step towards nullifying these programs in practice within the state.
A coalition of seven Republican representatives in Arizona introduced House Bill 2370 (HB2370) in January. The legislation would prohibit the state from using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with any action of the United States government that places within the state any refugee, unaccompanied alien child or other person who is not a citizen of the United States unless they have undergone a thorough background check and the federal government as agreed to reimburse the state of Arizona for any expenses incurred in the resettlement process, including ongoing costs.
The Arizona bill represents a practical implementation of Proposition 122, a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution in 2014 that provides a mechanism for refusing state resources to federal programs.
The Federalism and States’ Rights Committee passed HB2370 5-3.
The bill’s legislative findings create a strong basis for passing the bill, essentially saying the state will not foot the bill for refugees the federal government forces it to take. In a nutshell, if the feds want them there, they will have to pay for it and administer the program themselves.
“It typically costs the taxpayers of this state tens of thousands of dollars annually to provide public education and public assistance for each noncitizen refugee, unaccompanied alien child or other noncitizen placed within this state by the United States government. The United States government has not provided full reimbursement of all state and local costs associated with the placement of noncitizen refugees, unaccompanied alien children and other noncitizens placed within this state by the United States government.”
HB2370 would not authorize the state to actively interfere with federal resettlement of Middle Eastern Refugees, but they would stop any and all state assistance. Practically speaking, passage of the bill would make resettlement of refugees Arizona extremely difficult.
Private voluntary agencies generally handle refugee reception and placement services, but various state and local agencies facilitate the federal refugee resettlement program.
These state programs provides vital cash, medical and social service assistance. In other words, the federal government depends on significant state action to resettle refugees. Without state administration of the federal program, it would be difficult to successfully resettle refugees. Even Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress agrees, saying such policies would “potentially make settlement of refugees more difficult than it would be if the states cooperated.”
HB2370 rest on a rock-solid legal foundation known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. The Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal government cannot force states to provide resources for, or assist in implementing, any federal acts or programs. The Supreme Court established this doctrine primarily through four cases dating all the way back Prigg v. Pennsylvania in 1842.
Some states have used the same legal principle to establish “sanctuary cities” to limit cooperation with ICE.
Practically speaking, passage of HB2370 would drastically hinder refugee resettlement in Arizona. While resettlement is a federal policy, the feds depend on state cooperation to implement it. Without state help, the likelihood of any resettlement happening is greatly reduced.
The bill will now move on to the Rules Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving on to the full House for further consideration.
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