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Arizona Republicans push bill that would legalise killing undocumented migrants accused of trespass

‘I do not think there is any sense in giving a green light to more extrajudicial killings,’ a Democratic state legislator said in opposition to the bill

Kelly Rissman
Tuesday 02 April 2024 19:05 BST
George Kelly: Trial continues for AZ rancher

Republicans in the Arizona legislature advanced a bill that would allow residents to use “deadly force” if someone trespasses onto their property in the border state.

The bill would serve as an amendment to a state law — known as the Castle Doctrine — that permits the use of deadly force against someone trespassing. The proposed measure would broaden the definition of “premises” to include property, not just a home.

A property owner “is justified in threatening to use deadly physical force or in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent that a reasonable person would believe it immediately necessary” to prevent or stop criminal trespass “in or on the premises,” the bill’s text reads.

While the proposed measure doesn’t mention migrants, Republican state Rep Justin Heap said in February that the amended language of the measure would close a “loophole” over an alleged “increasingly larger number of migrants or human traffickers moving across farm and ranchland.”

Criminal defence attorney Jack Litwak told the Arizona Mirror that the Castle Doctrine is rooted in being able to defend one’s house. However, the new language expands on this, and even suggests “You can shoot someone that’s just on your actual property.”

Democratic Rep Analise Ortiz said the amendment would “wreak havoc,” KJZZ reported. “I do not think there is any sense in giving a green light to more extrajudicial killings,” she said, before voting in opposition to the bill.

The bill comes after George Alan Kelly, an Arizona rancher, fatally shot a migrant — Gabriel Cuen Buitimea — who stepped foot onto his property in January 2023. The 75-year-old rancher was later charged with second-degree murder over the killing. His trial is currently underway.

His attorneys argued that Kelly fired shots into the air as a warning as a group of migrants stepped onto his property.

The state’s Republicans in both chambers passed the bill, pushing it to the desk of the Democratic Gov Katie Hobbs, who is expected to veto the measure.

The Independent has reached out to Gov Hobb’s office.

The bill also comes as the debate over immigration into the US remains a hot-button issue as the 2024 president creeps closer.

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