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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs