By Corinne Murdock |
On Thursday, three State Senate Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against HB2696, a bill increasing sentencing for those who sexually abuse, smuggle, or traffic children. They argued that illegal immigrants or those transporting illegal immigrants around the state — not bringing them across the border — might be unfairly swept up under this bill.
The bill sponsor, State Representative Leo Biasucci (R-Lake Havasu City), explained during committee that the legislation would afford children with greater protections while creating disincentives for would-be perpetrators. Last month during the House Judiciary Committee consideration of the bill, Biasucci noted that current law allows criminals impacted by this bill to be released on probation after a few months. He described his bill as “put[ting] the hammer down.”
“It’s insane to think we continue to allow these people to walk our streets. And until we send a message that you’re going to go to prison for a very long time, it’ll never stop. It’s very simple and, in my opinion, not even debatable,” said Biasucci.
In opposition to the bill, State Senator Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) said that human smuggling charges should be addressed in a separate bill.
Minority Whip Martin Quezada (D-Glendale) concurred with Stahl Hamilton, calling the broadness of the bill “troubling and scary.” Quezada added that those transporting illegal immigrant children to various day-to-day activities like doctor’s appointments shouldn’t fear a human smuggling charge.
“These are family members that people are going to be transporting, you know taking to school, taking to the doctor, visiting other family, taking to the park — and now they’re going to be charged as human smugglers?” said Quezada. “Is this making the anti-immigrant culture in our community, is it making it better or is it going to make it worse? Is it going to further divide our community, or is it going to bring us together more?”
On the side of the committee Democrats was the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona. They didn’t speak on the bill during any committee consideration of the bill.
In the House, only State Representatives Morgan Abraham (D-Tucson), Melody Hernandez (D-Tempe), Pamela Powers Hannley (D-Tucson), and Minority Whip Domingo DeGrazia (D-Tucson) voted against the bill. They didn’t explain their votes.