Arizona law enforcement might not back up Trump’s immigration order

The U.S.-Mexico border fence extends through the Altar Valley near the Baboquivari Mountains in the area where the Arizona Border Recon camps out looking for border crossers. (Photo by Kendal Blust/Arizona Sonora News)

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

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. 

4 comments Add yours
  1. Your article has stated many things incorrectly or is only partially correct.

    “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.”
    Rayos came to this country in 1996 at 14. She is now 35. She has been in Arizona illegally for 21 years. In 2006 she was arrested and incarcerated for identity theft. A deportation order was issued against her in 2009. She has been reporting to ICE on that deportation order annually then recently every 6 months. At any of those order’s she could have been deported. She could have left at any time since 2009 voluntarily. She chose to ignore the order. She put her family in this position. Her husband is also illegal which means they have been living on the US largess for years and he should be deported too. They only person breaking up her family is her and the husband. The kids are the victims.
    The Pew Research Center has been using the same data on illegals since 2005 and grossly understated. You should be citing USCIS statistics or the Center for Immigration Policy which are far more accurate.
    The Gallup Poll you cite is from July of 2016 and more than questionable considering the outcome of the election. The same poll states Clinton immigration policies are favored by 53% to 34%. Given the fact that Trump ran on putting Americans first, closing the immigration loop holes and securing the border and his overwhelming win this poll is faulty.

    (this blue screen sucks!)

  2. Arizona Border Recon DOES NOT camp out looking for illegal aliens. In the area we patrol illegals make up approx 5% of whats comes across the border. The remaining 95% are DOPE MULES employed by the DRUG CARTELS. I wish the media would stop giving false information which is easily done via the simple task of “research”

    1. Thank you Jan for the great response, Your people are to be commended for their work to keep lawbreakers out of our country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *