Joe Duhownik

PHOENIX (CN) — Arizona Representative Steve Montenegro garnered bipartisan support Thursday for two pieces of legislation addressing issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.

After U.S. Border Patrol Agents made more arrests along the border in December than any previous month, the Republican from Goodyear proposed House Concurrent Resolution 2038, declaring cartels terrorist groups and demanding that the Department of Homeland Security “do everything in its authority to address threats posed by drug cartels,” and House Concurrent Memorial 2002, requesting that Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, deploy the National Guard to the border.

Both received do-pass recommendations from the House government committee Thursday morning.

“We can no longer ignore some of the serious threats we have to our safety, to our security,” Montenegro said about the resolution declaring cartels terrorist organizations. “The federal government is clearly refusing to do its job to secure our borders — to secure the safety of our citizens.”

Montenegro said the biggest driving factor for the designation is fentanyl. Roughly half of all fentanyl seized in the country is trafficked through Arizona. Officials in Maricopa County, home of Phoenix, report that more than three people die every day of fentanyl overdoses in the county alone, and that the pill has overtaken meth as the deadliest drug in state.

In Cochise County, in the southeast corner of the state, county police and border patrol agents seized nearly 400,000 fentanyl pills in December, Sheriff Mark Dannels said in a special legislative briefing in January.

But the pills aren’t coming on the backs of asylum-seeking migrants like many believe.

Of the 2,284 people booked into the Cochise County jail on “border crimes,” including illegal crossings and drug smuggling, only 154 were noncitizens. Across all border states, most fentanyl is brought into the country by U.S. citizens through legal ports of entry, not by asylum-seekers.

“They’re using us,” said state Representative Tim Dunn, a Republican from Yuma. “Us against the cartels is a bipartisan battle. It’s not part of immigration. It’s not part of asylum. They’re using that to orchestrate the attack.”

Dunn added an amendment clarifying that the resolution isn’t meant to have any impact on immigration or asylum procedures.

Every committee member voted in favor of the resolution. If it passes both the House and the Senate, it will bypass the governor’s office and go to Arizona voters on the next general election ballot.

The memorial asking the governor to deploy the National Guard to the border is simply a request. Memorials have no force of law.

Committee members almost tabled the memorial as they rushed to complete the meeting before more committees convened, but a staff member urged the legislators to vote on it. Rather than holding formal discussion on the memorial, committee chair Dunn moved it directly to a vote. Members hastily voted “yes” before shuffling off to their next meetings.

Representative Betty Villegas of Tucson, a Democrat, was the only member to vote "no." She didn’t explain her vote.

Hobbs sent the National Guard to the border before, when the Biden Administration closed the Lukeville port of entry in December 2023.