On Friday, a group of Arizona legislators reached out to Governor Doug Ducey with an offer to work with him to address the “omnipresent border crisis.” In a letter to the governor, the legislators also inquire as to the level of funding provided to the Border Strike Force.
Led by Rep. Shawnna Bolick, the lawmakers advised the governor that they hope to work with him to “come up with a concrete plan to further allocate resources to complete portions of the Border wall and ensure Border Strike Force is fully funded.”
The lawmakers accuse the Biden Administration of not making “the public safety or health of Arizonans” a top priority, noting that it “took until today for Vice President Kamala Harris to see the invasion for herself in El Paso.”
“We applaud other governors answering your call for assistance to send some of their law enforcement as back up as the ongoing invasion continues along the southern Border,” write the lawmakers. “The problem is real. We wish you didn’t have to rely on other states to bail us out because the federal government has failed us, but illegal immigration affects every state.”
The lawmakers cite as a source of concern an incident that occurred earlier this year which was “highlighted in the local newspaper that the Department of Public Safety release two confessed human smuggler with just a traffic citation after stopping him along a valley freeway in April with a van full of illegal immigrants.”
“It was rather alarming to read that the illegal immigrants in the van were released into the Phoenix area even though it is a direct violation of state law to be in our state unlawfully. It is noted that the federal agents would not pick up this van full of illegal immigrants if they weren’t violent felons. If the Border Strike Force isn’t identifying traffickers along the southern Border and they are making their way into the Valley, is the Border Strike Force understaffed and underfunded?”
The lawmakers expressed a desire to “work together to further investigate why this human trafficker was let go.”
“We support trade relations with Mexico, but we do not want transnational crime rings bringing further ruin into our state. It is past time to plug the gaping holes on state land that buttress Mexico allowing traffickers to invade our state.”
The lawmakers argue that border security is a states’ rights issue.
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas would build its border wall. Abbotts aid that the state will be soliciting donations from across the country to help fund the wall.
“When I do make the announcement later on this week, I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to for everybody in the United States — really everybody in the entire world — who wants to help Texas build the border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute,” Abbott said on a podcast show called “Ruthless.”
As AZ Free News reported earlier this month, Ducey and Abbott urgently requested all U.S. governors to send available law enforcement resources to their states along the U.S.-Mexico border as illegal border crossings, apprehensions, and unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody increase.
The Customs and Border Protection apprehension numbers for May showed more than 180,000 illegal aliens were apprehended crossing the border over the course of the month, a 674% increase from the 23,237 illegal aliens apprehended at the border in May 2020.
In a joint letter from Ducey and Abbott, fellow governors were told: “In response to the ongoing surge of illegal border crossings, with the accompanying threats to private property and to the safety of our citizens, Governor Abbott has declared a disaster and Governor Ducey has declared an emergency.”
Bolick was joined in the letter by Reps. Becky Nutt, Tim Dunn, Walt Blackman, Brenda Barton, John Kavanaugh, Mark Finchem, Joseph Chaplik, Beverly Pingerelli, Leo Biasiucci, Judy Burgess, Frank Carroll, Quang Nguyen, John Fillmore, Jacqueline Parker, and Steve Kaiser.
Earlier today I wrote a letter to @dougducey addressing the #BorderCrisis & the need to work together to solve it. Many of my fellow legislators co-signed it. If the Fed’s aren’t going to finish building the wall, AZ should. ???? pic.twitter.com/DXbit71KP3
Arizona’s wealthiest town has gained national attention over the last week, after it was discovered that a former hotel was covertly transformed into a migrant safe house almost overnight. A former Homewood Suites in Scottsdale has been converted to a makeshift migrant shelter closed to the public since May 24.
ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have contracted “Family Endeavors” through September 30 to house over 1,200 migrants at a time in Arizona and Texas. They paid the company $86.9 million in a no-bid contract lasting 6 and a half months for a multi-state contract. Each bed totals over $352 daily. The ICE contract repeated that the “Government would be seriously injured” had they not awarded this no-bid contract to Family Endeavors to handle the migrant influx – an “unusual and compelling urgency,” as they described it. The contract also noted that the expected migrant influx would be the highest seen in over 20 years.
The contract didn’t speculate as to why this sudden, emergency-level influx was occurring.
One of the organization’s officials was reportedly on the Biden transition team: former ICE official Andrew Lorenzen-Strait. Ahead of the influx characterized as an “unusual and compelling urgency,” Family Endeavors announced on Inauguration Day that Lorenzen-Strait would become their government liaison as senior director for migrant services and federal affairs.
Soon after the $86.9 million contract, Family Endeavors received the $530 million no-bid contract for “emergency intake” and long-term care of migrant children.
Family Endeavors’ website describes the organization as assisting “vulnerable people in crisis” like veterans, disaster victims, the homeless, and migrants.
Family Endeavors wouldn’t answer questions from AZ Free News concerning whether they felt communities were owed an advance warning prior to sheltering migrants there. The organization directed AZ Free News to speak with ICE for further inquiries.
“We can confirm that DHS [Department of Homeland Security] has contracted with Endeavors to provide critical services to migrant families, which is a continuation of services we have delivered to the migrant population since 2012,” wrote the Family Endeavors spokespersons.
Officers at the shelter site shared that they were contracted with Law Enforcement Specialists (LES), a law enforcement contract service company. They also informed reporters that ICE and various state agencies were monitoring the hotel.
ICE spokespersons also didn’t answer questions from AZ Free News concerning why surrounding communities weren’t given advance notice of the shelter, why local officials lack authority to decline sheltering migrants, or if there were any other similar shelters currently or soon to be operating out of Scottsdale or the surrounding areas. Instead, they reiterated the same information given to other reporters concerning the holding times, COVID-19 testing protocols, and the quality and content of care of migrants.
According to court documents concerning a legal battle between the property lender and the borrower, the plaintiffs in the case, Wilmington Trust, note that the defendant and borrower, Woodbridge Hospitality, misleadingly referred to the ICE/DHS contract as “private lodging” rather than the reality of its current usage – an immigrant detention center. Wilmington Trust claimed that they issued the loan to Woodbridge Hospitality on the condition that the facility would be secured by rents, income, and underlying value of a Homewood Suites by a Hilton branded first-class hotel.
On Tuesday, the city of Scottsdale issued a press release explaining that they’d been notified last Friday about ICE’s plan to establish a migrant shelter at the Homewood Suites the next day. ICE officials reportedly told city officials that the hotel would serve as house intact families seeking political asylum. ICE assured the city that a “vast majority” of those migrants would travel outside of Arizona after processing, which would be short-term: 72 hours or less, on average. ICE also assured the city that these migrants would be tested for COVID-19 and receive health assessments.
“Scottsdale has no current authority to prevent the hotel from being rented for these immigrant families,” read the press release. “Immigration is a federal matter, over which the city of Scottsdale has no responsibility or oversight.”
The city officials told concerned citizens to contact their federal government representatives, and listed Representative David Schweikert (R-AZ-06), Senators Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and President Joe Biden.
Links to federal leaders weren’t enough for Scottsdale’s citizenry. On Wednesday, over 600 protesters showed up at the pop-up Paradise Valley migrant shelter. Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega reprimanded the protestors and concerned citizens in an email.
“Feds say they are recognized, asylum seekers, not illegal border crossers, [they are] COVID tested and to be accountable to ICE. Feds control the closed-use property. They are exhausted now,” wrote Ortega. “‘Remember you were once an alien.’ Anyone living, working, or visiting Scottsdale will be treated with respect and dignity[.]”
Schweikert sent a letter to ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson, questioning how ICE planned on providing proper social services, security, boundaries, and first responder resources for the facility. Schweikert asserted that the area didn’t support a facility, logistically.
“I am concerned that this location lacks even the most basic resources needed for a migrant detention facility. I am also concerned about the effect this facility will have on the surrounding community,” wrote Schweikert. “Finally, and perhaps most troublingly, I am concerned that your agency made the decision to use this facility as a migrant detention center without properly consulting with the surrounding community.”
Neither Kelly or Sinema published any statements or remarks on the matter. However, both senators heavily criticized Biden’s handling of the border crisis.
The President hasn’t issued any statements, either; nor has White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on his behalf.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich submitted a letter as well.
“The President is using Arizona as an experiment with his reckless border policies,” wrote Brnovich. “All of us will pay the price, not only with our tax dollars, but also with our national security, and the safety of our families.”
At least one state-level representative has taken action, too. State Representative Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) also submitted a letter to Johnson questioning why ICE would locate a migrant detention center near a public school and suburban neighborhood.
Today I sent a letter to the acting director at @ICEgov to get answers to questions I have about a migrant detention facility located in the suburbs near a public school and neighborhood. I cc’d other local officials on the letter, hoping to get all of our questions answered. pic.twitter.com/FfEBcicWSo
Concern for the quality of these migrant facilities – especially for children at the ages most vulnerable for trafficking – has been a long-time issue for Arizona legislators. Back in 2016, whistleblowers revealed that unaccompanied migrant children were vulnerable to coyotes. State legislators attempted to introduce legislation requiring that refugee facilities be state-licensed and inspected monthly; it died in chamber.
Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An amendment offered by State Rep. Shawnna LM Bolick that would delay the state income tax return filing deadline will be considered by the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, March 24.
Bolick says her amendment to SB 1297 will provide uniformity with federal tax filing deadlines.
The Internal Revenue Service announced this week it has postponed this year’s April 15 deadline for filing federal income tax returns to May 17, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and recent changes in tax law. Arizona’s current state tax deadline is April 15.
“Arizonans should not be rushed to files their state taxes while they still have time to file their federal taxes,” said Bolick in a press release. “Arizona income tax filings are often dependent on the federal adjusted gross income – a figure only determined once you file your federal taxes. So, having the state deadline fall prior to the federal deadline doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and would only be cumbersome for state filers. Which is why I introduced language to postpone Arizona’s filing deadline for this year to mirror what the federal
Proposed state legislation which would set the penalties that must be imposed against businesses which sell tobacco or vapor products to someone below the minimum age will be considered Tuesday by the House Committee on Commerce.
Rep. Shawnna Bolick (R-LD20) has introduced HB2118 which amends ARS 13-3622 which currently makes it unlawful to sell tobacco and vapor products to minors. The bill would change that language to read “a person who is under the minimum age of sale” to reflect a federal rule which raised the minimum age to 21.
Bolick’s bill would also establish penalties to be imposed by a court when an enterprise violates the minimum age requirement. For instance, a first offense would involve mandatory attendance at a court-approved “tobacco retailer educational course” either in lieu of or in addition to a fine of $500 to $750.
Any additional violation committed by an enterprise within 36 months of the first violation would require a court to send at least one owner or manager of the business and one person in a nonmanagerial position to a court-approved tobacco retailer course.
Also under HB2118, a second violation within 36 months would require a court to prohibit the business from “selling, giving or furnishing” tobacco or vapor products for 30 days and impose a $1,000 to $1,500 fine. And a third violation within a 36-month period would require a $2,000 to $2,500 fine and prohibition on selling tobacco or vapor products for 90 days.
Four or more violations of the minimum age for sale law would require a court to impose a one-year ban on selling such products along with a fine of $3,500 to $5,000. result in a one year.
Bolick also includes a separate mandatory fine of $3,500 to $5,000 if a business sells, gives, or furnishes tobacco or vapor products while prohibited to do so under an earlier violation. In that situation a court would be required to extend the prohibition on future sales “for an amount of time that is two times the length of the prohibition that was initially imposed.”
The House Committee on Commerce is chaired by Rep. Jeff Weiniger (R-LD17). The committee meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Jan. 26.