Open Season on Illegals? Some Opponents of Arizona Bill Think So

by Vern Evans
The late gun writer Col. Charles Askins served on the U.S. Border Patrol in the 1930s where he professed to have been in at least one gunfight every week.

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A contentious bill proposed in the Arizona legislature looks to expand current Castle Doctrine in the state by allowing landowners a broader level of authority to use lethal force in defense of their property against trespassers. But critics, including one Democratic Latina lawmaker, argue it would essentially declare an “open (hunting) season” on illegal migrants who continue to flood across the U.S. southern border creating havoc for many communities and people, especially those people who live near the border.

Authored by Republican Rep. Justin Heap, the proposed legislation, House Bill 2843, aims to empower homeowners and landowners with the right to shoot and kill trespassers under the claim of self-defense, extending beyond the current law that protects those within their homes.

The legislative effort is primarily aimed at helping ranchers and farmers along the U.S.-Mexico border, who must continually deal with those who illegally cross into the country, many simply looking for a better life, but others who commit crimes, are smuggling drugs and carrying firearms. Rep. Heap told news outlets the bill seeks to close a loophole in state laws that have left property owners vulnerable to trespassers who could potentially pose a threat to their safety and livelihood.

There are no shortage of stories and first-hand accounts from people from Texas to California of groups of people, damaging fences, steeling property and breaking into homes. One Texas resident recounted how his wife came home to find their house had been broken into. Investigating further while waiting for police to arrive, she looked out her kitchen window to see a man, an illegal immigrant, swimming in their pool, the valuables he had taken stacked up next to the pool.

Hunters with outfitters along the border are warned to stay hidden if they see people coming through the barren land as a person never knows who poses a danger and who doesn’t. Violent, cartel drug runners use these same porous routes to enter the states as well.

In fact, the bill’s introduction comes in the aftermath of a high-profile case involving 73-year-old Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly, who is facing second-degree murder charges following the shooting death of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea on his property. Cuen-Buitimea, who had illegally entered the U.S., was unarmed when he was killed. Kelly, asserting his actions were in self-defense, claimed he had only fired warning shots at a group of migrants he believed to be armed. The incident has only fueled an already fiery debate over property rights, self-defense and the treatment of migrants illegally entering the U.S.

Phoenix-area Democrat Rep. Analise Ortiz and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee have vehemently opposed the bill, labeling it inhumane and arguing it could lead to “open season on migrants” escalating the potential for extrajudicial killings.

“It’s terrifying. It would give people free rein to execute somebody and it would broaden extrajudicial killings,” Ortiz told NBC News. “This is part of a broader anti-immigrant movement that we’ve seen coming from the right, which aims to dehumanize and vilify people who are coming to this country seeking asylum.”

Critics of the bill fear the move could create an environment reminiscent of legends from the late famed gun writer Col. Charles Askins, who served in WWII and served on the border patrol along the southern border for as much as a decade in the 1930s. Askins professed to have been in a gunfight at least once a week and was rumored to have tested new loads and firearms in those gunfights and then wrote about their performance in the magazines he wrote for. Askin’s autobiography was even titled “Unrepentant Sinner.”

While Democrats and others have been quick to denounce the bill, the movement is also a backlash to progressive polices under the Biden Administration that has allowed record numbers of migrants to cross into the U.S. through the southern border with no accountability. Taxpayers, as a result, have been forced to provide for their housing, food and other financial needs, a situation that has led to mounting tension, even among people typically supportive of the Democratic Party. Countless communities are suffering the consequences of crimes committed by some of these illegals who have nothing and are desperate or come from violent backgrounds themselves.

“The Tucson, Arizona, Customs and Border Patrol sector has seen a 149.6% jump in migrant encounters, which includes people crossing legally and those quickly expelled, this January over January 2023, according to CBP statistics,” NBC News reports.

Sociologists and pundits have observed that proposed laws that seek to expand self-defense and property rights are inevitable to counteract soft policies on illegal immigration and the creation of a social order in which people who are legally in this country must obey laws, but those who are not citizens can flaunt them. High profile cases of crimes by people in this country illegally fill headlines each week including the brutal murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley by an illegal, the attack of New York City police officers by a gang of illegals who were then released laughing without bail, the arrest of three illegals from Guatemala for allegedly kidnapping a woman from a Florida park and raping her before she managed to escape, the arrest of an illegal immigrant in Illinois, just two weeks in the country, who stabbed to death and attempted to decapitate his wifein front of their two children, the arrest of an illegal from Mexico who had already been deported 8 times and arrested another 11 times and has been charged in the murder of an Ohio man, and there are others. Such headlines exacerbate the issue.

Despite the controversies and divided views, the bill has progressed along party lines in the state House, with a 31-28 vote favoring its advancement. Its future in the Republican-controlled state Senate appears promising, though Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs is expected to veto the measure, aligning with her stance against a similar bill that sought to empower state police to arrest individuals entering the country illegally.

At stake, proponents argue the bill reinforces the fundamental right of property owners to protect their land and safety, while opponents fear it marks a dangerous escalation in anti-immigrant sentiment and potentially unlawful and unethical use of force.

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