Tucson’s police chief said Thursday that he won’t change police policies on immigration enforcement, despite President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to round up and deport up to 3 million immigrants with criminal records.
Chief Chris Magnus said the Tucson Police Department has worked hard over the past several years to develop a relationship of trust and partnership with the immigrant community and that saddling local police with more immigration enforcement responsibilities would “seriously compromise” that trust.
“It is important our residents understand that the policies and practices put in place over the past decade to direct and clarify how our officers interact with undocumented persons and handle immigration enforcement issues are not changing,” the chief said in a written statement in response to media questions.
The Tucson Police Department’s general orders on immigration policy, which were updated on Oct. 12, say that officers can’t stop a person unless they believe he or she is involved in criminal activity. If the encounter is during a lawful stop and the officer develops suspicion that the person might be undocumented, the officer must make a “reasonable attempt” to determine the person’s immigration status, unless it’s not practicable.
“In determining whether it is practicable, officers should consider things such as workload, criticality of incident and of other present duties, available personnel on scene, location, available backup, ability to contact ICE/CBP and availability of ICE/CBP,” the policy states, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.
Officers also need to consider if pursuing the person’s immigration status could hinder or obstruct a criminal investigation, the policy says.
Under Arizona’s immigration law, known as SB 1070, police are required to try to check the status of anyone they stop if they believe the suspect is in the country illegally. The so-called “show us your papers” provision took effect in 2012 and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Magnus said TPD will continue to work with federal law enforcement partners and abide by all federal and state laws that regulate immigration and protect civil rights.
“This means we make notifications associated with certain contacts and arrests when the individuals involved are a direct threat to public safety, are wanted for serious crimes, or have federal arrest warrants,” he said.
If residents think that reporting a crime, seeking help from police or working with the department to improve safety in their neighborhoods could cause them to be detained or deported, the community becomes less secure, Magnus said in his statement.
“We will not compromise our commitment to community policing and public safety by taking on immigration enforcement responsibilities that appropriately rest with federal authorities,” he added. Magnus said through a spokesman that he would not answer follow-up questions from reporters.
Shortly after his Nov. 8 election, Trump promised to deport 2 million to 3 million immigrants who have been convicted of crimes.
It’s unclear what role local law enforcement agencies would play and if, or how, they would be asked to assist under Trump’s plans.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Monday that he also won’t change his department’s stance on immigration enforcement despite Trump’s pledge to toughen federal immigration laws and deport millions of people upon taking office.
Sheriff-elect Napier will wait and see
Pima County Sheriff-elect Mark Napier, a Republican who begins his term Jan. 1, said Thursday that he hadn’t yet made a decision about immigration enforcement policies, as there are still too many unknowns.
He hasn’t had access or time to review all of the Sheriff’s Department’s policies and procedures, and isn’t yet familiar with the current direction when it comes to immigration enforcement, he said.
“It is also not completely clear what all the nuances of President-elect Trump’s approach will be or how it might change our current practices,” Napier said. “I will be reviewing the issue when I assume office in January and when more is known about how Trump’s plan might impact law enforcement at a local level.”
In February, current Sheriff Chris Nanos, a Democrat defeated by Napier in the Nov. 8 election, said the Pima County jail notifies immigration authorities when a person they’re looking for is about to be released. If those authorities don’t pick up the person, he or she is released from jail.
As of now, Napier doesn’t intend to change that policy when he takes office, saying that he trusts that if immigration officials have placed a hold on an individual, it’s for a “bona fide criminal justice purpose” and that person is believed to be a significant risk to public safety.