The 100 day mark has come and gone and President Trump has not followed through on his promise to protect DACA recipients. Across the country, students and working residents are being threatened with removal and on May 10 the Tucson Commission on Human Relations met to discuss the potential for Tucson to become a sanctuary city. We need policy to keep our Tucson community safe and stable, but officially declaring ourselves a sanctuary city in a strong red state will only lead to greater scrutiny by our state government and potentially by federal enforcement agencies.
The Trump administration continually makes empty reassurances: That if you do everything right, you can “rest easy.” But it could be you. Twenty-year old Flores Fuentes is a DACA recipient and university student who faced immediate deportation. Only after activists raised an outcry on her behalf, the threat was rescinded and called a mistake. The Deferred Action Child Arrival program is not a permanent solution for our country nor for the individuals in it. The program does not grant any form of legal status and the federal government reserves the right to deny a renewal application or an existing status at any time, for any reason. Revocation without reason has not been a normal occurrence until the Trump administration and, since then, we’ve seen stories like Fuentes’ and even deportation of DACA recipients make headlines.
Our Tucson law enforcement should continue to clearly differentiate itself from federal agents, especially with the potential upcoming passage of Proposition 101. We need to ensure that any increase in taxes for public safety is not used to support federal agents that disrupt Tucson’s welcoming community. The Tucson Police Department General Orders on Immigration Policy state, “The Department expressly acknowledges that mere unauthorized presence in the United States is not a criminal offense, and enforcement of such civil violations is reserved for federal authorities.” Once the original reason for detainment is resolved, a person officers suspect is in the country illegally will be released if Border Patrol or ICE do not respond. Officers will not extend detention beyond the time for the original reason for detainment if there are federal civil charges against the detainee. However, if the detainee is facing criminal charges, detention time could be extended.
These are good steps in the direction of protecting our Tucson residents but more should be done that may qualify the city as a sanctuary without explicitly assuming “sanctuary status.”
In the 2016 legislative session, Arizona’s SB 1378 would have barred state funding to designated “sanctuary cities.” The important argument against this bill, which failed when three Republican senators defected, was that it created the legal definition of a sanctuary city where there was no need. By officially declaring itself a sanctuary city, Tucson would do the work of a legal definition for the Republican Legislature and offers itself as political fodder to those who would point to the city as an example. While there is absolutely the principle of standing up for what is right, our city must be careful to make necessary changes as quietly as possible or risk everything.