As SB 1070 is set to go into effect Thursday, local police departments are preparing to enforce the law, which makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant living in the state of Arizona.
Signed slightly more than three months ago by Gov. Jan Brewer, the legislation ignited a political fire storm between those who want more done to secure Arizona’s border with Mexico and those who maintain the law will lead to racial profiling.
Now, unless a federal judge decides otherwise, law enforcement officers will be required starting Thursday to check the status of anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” to be in the United States illegally.
In a report released this month by the Immigration Policy Center in Washington, D.C., an Arizona attorney voiced concerns about how the law could be interpreted and carried out throughout the state.
“What you’re going to have is 15,000 variations on a theme,” suggested Tucson lawyer Richard Martinez, referring to the number of officers in Arizona local law enforcement agencies. Martinez represents one of two police officers challenging the statute. “Because of the manner in which the statute was written, the manner by which it’s being interpreted, and then the manner by which it’s actually implemented, and even among officers, you’ll have them inconsistently applying the law,” he said.
But the Arizona Police Association and other police unions have stressed the new law won’t change the way they already do business.
“The only way we’re going to ask someone’s citizenship status is if they’re pulled over for a traffic violation, arrested for the commission of a crime or being investigated for a crime,” said Sgt. Joe Favazzo of the Chandler Police Department. “First of all, we’re always going to try to determine someone’s place of residence. Like in a traffic stop, we always attempt to find out where someone lives.”
SB 1070 requires immigrants to carry proof of their legal status. But even before SB 1070, current law required a person stopped by police to provide proper identification. Failure to do so can be a misdemeanor and the person can be detained for Immigration and Customs Enforcement for up to 72 hours, according to Vincent Picard, an ICE spokesman.
If a suspect is booked into a county jail, the county then will verify citizenship status. If ICE suspects one is living in the country illegally, a detainer or hold will be placed on the suspect, and they can be held up to 72 hours. If ICE does not pick that person up within 72 hours, they must be let go.
“A local law enforcement agency cannot place a detainer on someone they believe is an illegal immigrant,” Picard said. “We would place an administrative hold on them, not a criminal hold, until their status is determined.”
Also, under SB 1070, law enforcement cannot simply go up to someone on the street and demand proof of legal status — unless the situation meets certain criteria.
When Brewer signed SB 1070 on April 23, she issued an executive order to the Arizona Peace Officer Standard and Training Board to develop training for officers to implement the law.
Lyle Mann, the executive director of AZPOST, told the Tribune that his agency’s part in developing the training is complete.
“We did what we were supposed to do,” Mann said. “Now, it all depends on the individual agency of what they need to do to enforce it.”
There are three ways a police officer can begin to inquire about one’s citizenship status — if the person is being questioned for a traffic violation, caught in the commission of a crime or is being questioned as part of a criminal investigation.
If a suspect’s citizenship status is in doubt, police can be assisted by calling Phoenix-based Law Enforcement Agency Response (LEAR), a unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement established in 2006, which will verify citizenship status.
“We basically have two ways to verify one’s citizenship status — through calling LEAR in Phoenix or the Law Enforcement Support Center in Vermont. In the situation of LEAR, it’s immediate. An officer can find out someone’s citizenship status in a matter of minutes,” Picard said. “An officer also can submit a request to the Law Enforcement Center to verify one’s status, but that can take about an hour.”
To determine one’s citizenship status police submit a referral sheet to ICE. The length it could take to receive an answer on someone’s status could be up to 90 minutes, or less, depending on the level of cooperation of the person being questioned.
Last Wednesday on the 17th anniversary of Maricopa County’s Tent City jail, Sheriff Joe Arpaio marked the occasion with the grand opening of Section 1070 at the jail — a newly created section specifically for anyone arrested by local law enforcement on or after Thursday for violating the new immigration law.
Section 1070 will hold up to 100 inmates but can grow at a rate relative to the numbers arrested by local law enforcement, according to information from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
“There will never be the excuse that this jail hasn’t enough room for violators of SB 1070,” Arpaio said.