The South Tucson City Council has agreed to an overhaul of the police department’s immigration policy in the months since the American Civil Liberties Union filed a claim over how the agency has implemented SB 1070.
But the council hesitated Monday night to accept the ACLU's proposed changes wholesale.
SB 1070, which took effect in 2012, requires law-enforcement officers to call immigration authorities when they suspect that someone they’ve stopped for another reason is in the country illegally.
The ACLU submitted a notice of claim, which is required before suing a government, in November. It alleged racial profiling and the illegal detention of an immigrant-rights activist who was not charged with a crime under state law. As a remedy, it sought to change the policies by which officers carried out the state's signature immigration law.
South Tucson’s new policy fulfills many of the recommendations the ACLU has made to Southern Arizona departments in how and when those immigration inquiries are made.
Among the changes it includes:
• An officer must radio in the reason for the initial stop and must check with a supervisor before calling immigration authorities, when possible.
• Officers are barred from considering race or ethnicity, lack of English fluency, accents, possession of foreign documentation, lack of identification, refusal or inability to provide a residential address, dress or the choice to remain silent as among the factors that contribute to a reasonable suspicion that a person is in the country illegally.
• When doing an immigration check, officers must call Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the immigration authority in the interior of the country, instead of Border Patrol, which enforced immigration law along the Border.
• The department will compile monthly stop statistics, and a form will be filled out with the details of each immigration inquiry that is made. Among the information to be recorded: the reason for the initial stop, the reason for the immigration inquiry, the time of supervisor approval, the time immigration authorities were contacted, how long it took to get a response from the agency, the time the stop was concluded, and whether the person was transferred to federal custody.
Although the council agreed to the rewritten policy, several members chafed at additional requirements included in a settlement offer the ACLU submitted about a week ago.
“They’re telling us what to do,” Councilman Ildefonso Green said at Monday's council meeting. “The ACLU is trying to implement a patchwork type legislation starting with the cities with small pockets. They’re trying to legislate this type of thing by threat.”
In addition to the policy changes, the proposed settlement would have the city add officer training, an online complaint system, a community board and community liaison, and would require the city to purchase or gain access to expensive fingerprinting equipment, according to summaries provided during the meeting.
“We were negotiating the policy,” Councilwoman Vanessa Mendoza said. “Now there’s whole other sections in there that were not part of the policy.”
“We want to work with them; we just don’t want to be forced into budget problems,” said Councilman Miguel Rojas.
The ACLU did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The city attorney, Andrea de Castillo, who also has an independent immigration law practice, said she would bring the council’s concerns back to the ACLU.
“I’ll tell them we are very excited about having an immigration policy that is a model for other cities, but there are concerns,” she said.