PHOENIX – Arizona law enforcement agencies mostly say they won’t participate in widespread immigration raids that target long-term undocumented immigrants no matter what President Trump’s new executive order says.
The Phoenix, Tucson and Nogales police departments, and Yuma, Santa Cruz and Maricopa sheriffs say officers will not target long-term undocumented immigrants who have no violent felony offenses.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said his officers would not target people simply for being long-term undocumented, yet if they commit any crime officers will turn them over to immigration officials. An earlier version of this story stated his office would target long-terms whether criminal or not. He called after publication and said he never made that comment and to clarify his department’s position.
Dannels said Cochise County pursues all lawbreakers equally.
“We’re not going to just target the illegals,” Dannels said. “Those [who] break the state law, we will charge them. Whether they are legally or illegally here.”
About 5 percent of Arizona’s population — some 325,000 people — are undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center.
So Wednesday, when ICE jailed and promised to deport Guadalupe García de Rayos, a 21-year-old, long-term undocumented immigrant who was brought to Arizona when she was 14, the decision startled her family and many immigrant right activists.
And the Phoenix Police Department is being very clear: It was not involved in the detention of Rayos. The department said it was only on the scene because of the protestors that came out en mass to support Rayos.
“The Phoenix Police Department does not target anyone and was not a part of any recent events involving undocumented immigrants with minor criminal offenses,” Sgt. Jonathan Howard of the PPD said. “We will continue to enforce Arizona state laws, like identity theft and theft, but have no plans to implement a pro-active immigration enforcement squad.”
Phoenix isn’t alone. At the Tucson Women’s March on Washington, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild made it clear that he will advise Tucson officers not to prioritize and seek out long-term undocumented immigrants, regardless of their minor criminal offenses.
The Nogales Police Department will not participate in the prioritization of long-term undocumented immigrants, according to its public information officer, Christina Bermudez.
“Nothing will change here,” Bermudez said about targeting long-term undocumented immigrants, even those with minor criminal offenses.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s office will not be targeting long-term undocumented immigrants with minor criminal offenses, either.
“We have received no specific directives from Department of Homeland Security regarding the executive order,” said Mark Casey, public information director for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office, stating the Maricopa sheriff will not target long-term undocumented immigrants. “While we will abide by both our constitutional duties and by the directives of the court, we will not be doing raids, nor will we tolerate targeting individuals because the color of their skin.”
Yuma County sheriff officials said nothing will change there either, saying they will not be prioritizing long-term undocumented immigrants with minor criminal offenses.
Santa Cruz County sheriff officials oppose having their deputies act as immigration officers.
“I have not had any official order to start doing immigration work,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada. “We are not immigration officers. We do not have the authority. I do not welcome that, and hopefully it is something that we will not have to do.”
Quentin Mehr, a state Department of Public Safety spokesman, said DPS does not plan for Arizona officers to search for undocumented immigrants. DPS will not be prioritizing long-term undocumented immigrants, as the executive order calls for.
A Gallup poll showed that two-thirds of Americans oppose deporting undocumented immigrants, and 84 percent are in favor of building a path to citizenship for long-term undocumented immigrants. Even over three-fourths of Republicans support a path to citizenship, according to the poll.
A CBS News Poll from Jan. 13-16, 2017, showed similar results, with a majority of respondents favoring a program for undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. and eventually apply for citizenship.
“I don’t think federal government has the right nor should they have the authority to tell us what to do with immigration,” Estrada said.
Christianna Silva is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the school of journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at email@example.com.
This story was modified after first publication to clarify Dannels’ statement. He said he never stated officers would target long-term undocumented with or without criminal records.