Activists in Arizona are rattled over a new bill brought before the state Senate that would dish out harsher sentences for undocumented immigrants compared to U.S. citizens, according to AZfamily.com.
The bill under consideration, SB1279, will also make it impossible for undocumented felons to be released early on parole. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona stressed in an email Monday that individuals should voice concerns to their state senators, who are not expected to vote on the new measure until next week. In the meantime, the ACLU is devoting its time to convince politicians to turn down the proposal.
The email claims that “in addition to padding the wallets of prison operators, this proposal is also likely unconstitutional because of its unfair treatment of immigrants.”
Arizona lawmakers tried to pass a similar bill, known as Grant’s Law, in 2016, but the state House of Representatives came up a vote short.
Grant’s Law was inspired by the murder of Grant Ronnebeck, 21, who was shot to death by an undocumented man. The alleged killer had been charged for two burglaries previously, but never ended up serving jail time for those offenses. Ronnebeck’s father, Steve Ronnebeck, says “had he been sentenced to even the minimum, Grant would still be alive.”
Nearly a mirror image of the current proposal, Grant’s Law “would require federal immigration authorities to detain undocumented immigrants accused or convicted of serious crimes and deport them within 90 days,” according to the AZRepublic.
Will Gaona of the ACLU believes the new bill would lead to higher prison populations and would compel judges to hand out long sentences.
Gaona argues the bill establishes a “separate but unequal system of punishment that isn’t based on the actual conduct of this person,” but, the individuals’ legality.
Besides the ACLU’s argument that the new bill is unconstitutional, some speculate that implementing it would cost Arizona taxpayers an extra $15.1 million per year. On the other hand, some, including Grant’s father, are struggling to understand how individuals can put a dollar value on a human life.
“What is somebody else’s child — what is their life worth? If it saves that life, I guess I don’t see the trade-off between dollars and lives,” said Ronnebeck.