News / USA

Arizona Police Prepare to Enforce Controversial Immigration Law

Greg Flakus

Some law enforcement officials in Arizona are concerned that the state's controversial new immigration law, which takes effect on July 29, will create a burden for police. The law requires police in the state to check the immigration status of anyone they encounter in a lawful stop who shows some indication of being in the country illegally. Hispanics fear that suspicion could fall on anyone with dark skin, and result in police harassment of legal residents and citizens. Most police say they are prepared to enforce the law without violating any citizen's rights.

Hispanic groups in Arizona have condemned the new state law for what they describe as encouraging racial profiling, but the law's defenders say it specifically bars police from detaining anyone based on ethnic or racial appearance. Arizona law enforcers are now training to carry out the law as it is written.

Hipolito Acosta, a former federal immigration agent who now works for a Texas-based consulting group, recently helped make a training video for the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board on how police should carry out their new duties.

"It is like enforcing any other law," Acosta said. "You have to have certain factors built up before you make that stop and this law is no different, with the exception that there must have been some kind of lawful encounter before they start trying to determine those other factors."

The new law says an officer stopping any person or persons and inquiring about their immigration status must have "reasonable suspicion" of someone having violated federal immigration law. But what does that mean? Acosta provides an example.

"Let's say there are some bags in the vehicle which contain possibly some basic necessities, some water bottles, which would indicate a possibility that these individuals might have just crossed the border and walked through the desert, which happens quite a bit," Acosta said. "So the officer would then probably ask the individuals a simple question, did they have some identification or where they were going."

One thing that makes discussion of this law difficult, however, is that many people outside law enforcement have not read the law. Sergeant Fabian Pacheco, Public Information Officer for the Tucson Police Department says many Hispanics fear the law out of ignorance.

"A lot of people who are really worked up about this law, many of them, when you ask them if they have ever taken the chance to read the law you will be surprised, most of them have not, they are just going off all kinds of rumors that they are hearing regarding what and what not police are going to engage in," Pacheco said.  

Pacheco says 40 percent of the Tucson Police force is Hispanic and that all officers, regardless of race or ethnicity, are trained to avoid racial profiling. Still, he says, he worries that the controversy created by the new law will cause many people, especially undocumented immigrants, to avoid the police and refrain from cooperating with criminal investigations.

Pacheco also worries that officers' time will be taken up dealing with illegal aliens rather than responding to more serious crimes.

"Officers in the past could quickly deal with a situation and then go back in service and deal with those calls for service that are of concern to people here such as responding to violent crimes or burglaries, robberies, stuff like that," Pacheco said. "Now they may be stuck at a call dealing with an undocumented immigrant."

Some police officials also worry that officers could be sued by Arizona citizens who accuse them of not doing enough to enforce the law, while at the same time being criticized by civil rights activists for being too aggressive in carrying out the law's requirements.

Jack Harris, the Phoenix Chief of Police and head of the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police explains.

"It puts Arizona law enforcement right in the middle," Harris said. "You have one side saying that we are going to be racial profiling; you have another side and a portion of the law that allows people who do not think we are doing enough to sue us and have some civil penalties attached to that as well. It is very, very divisive for us and makes it difficult for us to police our communities."

Opinion polls in Arizona show overwhelming public support for the law, but few experts believe it will have an impact on illegal immigration. Arizona has become the point of entry for more than 40 percent of illegal entrants from Mexico since the federal government began programs to tighten control of the border in California and Texas. Phoenix has now become the world's second-worst city for kidnapping, next to Mexico City, and some Arizona authorities say smugglers of drugs and illegal immigrants are to blame. Ultimately, both critics and supporters of the new state law agree, the problem can only be solved by the federal government.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid