April 12, 2005
A House panel voted Monday to authorize state and local law enforcement officers to begin enforcing federal immigration law.
Rep. Russell Pearce, RMesa, said many communities have what are, in effect, "sanctuary policies" where people who are here illegally need not fear police.
"That is an outrageous policy that simply says we will look the other way, we’re going to do nothing about it virtually," Pearce said.
The legislation, SB1306, would specifically authorize police officers, sheriffs’ deputies and Department of Public Safety employees to "investigate, apprehend, detain or remove aliens in the United States . . . in the enforcement of immigration laws."
But the proposal is drawing fire from the agencies that would be affected.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said this proposal actually could work against better enforcement of illegal immigration and related problems.
He said deputies talk with illegal entrants on the streets or at work "not to put them in jail, but also to get information leading up to who caused them to be smuggled into this country."
Eric Edwards, representing police chiefs and county sheriffs, told lawmakers there are legitimate reasons police don’t question people about their legal status.
"They’re very concerned about developing some trust in this community so that they do feel free to come forward as a victim or as witness to assist in the much more serious crimes," he said.
The Tucson Police Department opposes the measure.
Rep. Amanda Aguirre, D-Yuma, said she feared the proposal would lead to racial profiling, as police officers start looking at people of color in an effort to figure out who is legal and who is not.
"It just releases like a witch hunt into our communities," she said. "This is wrong."
Rep. David Lujan, DPhoenix, said police already can arrest people who have broken criminal laws.
Lujan said entering the United States illegally is a civil offense and not a crime — at least not the first time.
He said there is no reason police should be enforcing civil laws.