Tim Steller's Feb. 22 column misses the point entirely.
We are saddened and outraged by the Tucson Police Department, Border Patrol, SB 1070, and the growing anti-migrant national political agenda that is attacking day-labor workers, domestic workers, mothers, fathers and children, as well as the general well-being of our community.
SB 1070 is the Arizona law that requires that "any person who is arrested shall have the person's immigration status determined before the person is released" during a "lawful" stop. The previous sentence of the bill uses qualifying language, such as if "reasonable suspicion" exists, if it is "practicable," and unless "the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation."
René Huerta Meza's detention and deportation last week highlight how TPD is actively racial profiling to enforce SB 1070. That's because we wonder if police would have felt compelled to verify Huerta Meza's immigration status had he been white.
TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor denies racial profiling is taking place in his department. However, racial profiling is absolutely necessary for the TPD officers to be able to enforce the state immigration law.
According to the TPD General Orders of SB 1070 enforcement released September 2012, "In determining whether reasonable suspicion of unlawful presence exists, officers should consider all possible relevant factors, including, but not limited to:
"Lack of or false identification," "possession of foreign identification," "foreign vehicle registration," "significant difficulty speaking English," "dress" "location, including for example: A place where unlawfully present aliens are known to congregate looking for work."
Clearly, the affected community is being targeted and is "reasonably suspicious" simply for being brown, traumatizing children and tearing apart families.
As described above, TPD can use discretion enforcing SB 1070 if it wants to.
We ask Villaseñor: Why doesn't TPD use discretion and declare that SB 1070 is never "practicable" because it terrorizes our Tucson community and it "hinders or obstructs" their investigations? It could.
City Council member Karin Uhlich affirmed TPD and posted the following: "Everyone, including Chief Villaseñor and TPD, agrees that public safety is the department's primary focus and priority, not immigration enforcement, however the mandates of SB 1070 clearly create certain new obligations for our officers."
Again, SB 1070 language gives TPD a shining loophole it has refused to employ. Will the Tucson City Council publicly demand Villaseñor use these loopholes, so Tucson can live up to the "Immigrant Welcoming City" resolution it passed Aug. 7?
TPD regularly makes immigration enforcement its primary duty, therefore single-handedly creating a hostile and unsafe environment for the Tucson Latino community comparable to that bred by Maricopa County's Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
As long as SB 1070 is enforced, and local police call Border Patrol or ICE on families, public safety will always be jeopardized.
Also, are officers delaying the release of detainees for no reason other than to verify their immigration status? If so, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on SB 1070 declares that "this would raise constitutional concerns."
In addition, René Huerta Meza's case also highlights how Border Patrol violates basic rights such as the right to a phone call, access to a lawyer and the denial of due process. We ask Manuel Padilla Jr., chief of Border Patrol Tucson Sector, why the Border Patrol sees itself above the U.S. Constitution. Why does it act as if detainees under their custody have no rights?
We demand the state of Arizona repeal SB 1070. In the meantime, we ask that all local law enforcement (sheriffs and police departments in Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, city of South Tucson, and all across Arizona and the nation) immediately use the loophole in anti-migrant laws like SB 1070 to end collaborations with Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
No more calling Border Patrol. No more family separations and deportations like that of René Huerta Meza. We are all René!
Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa and Stephanie Quintana are local migrant rights community organizers.