SB 1070: Phoenix Officials Calm Residents' Fears; Answer Questions About Police Enforcement of Law

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Phoenix residents show up at Carl Hayden High School auditorium to learn about police enforcement of SB 1070.
About 200 people filed into the Carl Hayden High School auditorium in west Phoenix in search of answers on Monday evening, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed one of the most controversial provisions of SB 1070 to stand.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, councilmen Michael Nowakowski and Danny Valenzuela and Police Chief Daniel Garcia did their best assuage the confusion, doubt, fear and frustration of Phoenix residents in the crowd.

Overall, it appeared that audience members were satisfied with city official's plans on handling enforcement of the law -- even as Chief Garcia made it clear that Phoenix Police Department will enforce SB 1070, a law that essentially requires local cops to act as immigration-enforcement agents.

"We will enforce the laws equally, and we will not tolerate the violation of anyone's civil rights," he said.

An immigration attorney in the audience questioned city officials regarding language in the law that only required police officers to call ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) when it is practical to do so.

"We heard today from [U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security] essentially saying that the Department of Homeland Security is going to withdraw 287(g), particular here in Maricopa County, and throughout the state of Arizona," the immigration attorney said. "In addition, the Department of Homeland Security said it was was not going to take calls from state authorities or local authorities on immigration status issues."

(The 287(g) program cross-trained local cops and allowed them to enforce federal immigration laws in cooperation with ICE agents.)

Then he asked: "At what point does this become impractical to call ICE when you have somebody detained? Will the decision be made that the resources of the city are no longer to be used to make calls that are not practical because ICE and DHS are simply not going to take them, or not going to be responding to them:"

Garcia said that police have an "obligation to make an effort to enforce law," that his officers would follow that process, but added that he couldn't "speak to when ICE would or would not answer the phone," he said.

Stanton said that if the time came when Chief Garcia decided that police officers calling ICE, as a practical matter, was a waste of time, and decided that it's a good police practice to stop wasting time, that he would support that decision.

The 2b provision of SB 1070 gives cops the authority to investigate and question a person about their immigration status during a lawful stop if they have "reasonable suspicion" that the person is undocumented. Many people wanted to know what would make a police officer reasonably suspicious.

It involves various circumstances. It's complicated. It isn't defined by the law.

Those were the best answers Phoenix officials could muster when, for example, a woman asked whether showing her Mexican identification to a police officer who pulls her over would constitute "reasonable suspicion" that she was undocumented.

"That by itself isn't reasonable suspicion," Chief Garcia said, repeating that reaching that legal basis involves varying factors.

"Reasonable suspicion includes several facts and circumstances that would make a reasonable person believe someone is committing or has committed an immigration violation," he said. "It is based on the totality of all the facts and circumstances known to the officer."

Garcia reiterated to the audience that race, color, and national origin cannot be one of the facts an officer can use to develop reasonable suspicion.

It wasn't enough, and the question was asked several times.

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