The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Federal immigration enforcement under the current administration in Washington has shocked and outraged Tucsonans. But Proposition 205, the “sanctuary” initiative, is not the answer.
If passed, Prop. 205 would harm our community in ways that have nothing to do with immigration. And, while intended to protect immigrants, it may actually make their situation worse.
There are parts of Prop. 205 that the city already does.
But there are other parts of this initiative that no city does — or would want to do.
Prop. 205 prohibits the Tucson Police Department from working with federal law enforcement agencies on any task force, operation, “or similar endeavor” unless those agencies sign an agreement giving up some of their arrest authority within city limits. No federal agency is going to sign such an agreement.
This prohibition applies to all federal law enforcement agencies, not just those dealing with immigration.
So what would happen if Prop. 205 passed?
Task forces, operations and endeavors include law enforcement activities TPD currently engages in with the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service — all of which Prop. 205 would prohibit.
This means that TPD couldn’t work with the FBI to find missing and exploited children; couldn’t work with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to protect children from online predators; couldn’t work with ATF to keep guns out of the hands of criminals; and couldn’t work with U.S. Marshals to catch fugitive felons.
Prop. 205 would also put TPD’s Department of Justice grants at risk — grants that currently pay for Spanish-speaking detectives to work on sexual assault and domestic violence cases, for DNA testing to clear a backlog of sexual assault kits, and for multiple other program and personnel needs.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that the DOJ can award discretionary grant funding based in part on a city’s immigration policies, and the City of Los Angeles lost funding as a result.
So, if Prop. 205 has such devastating impacts on public safety, what does it do for immigrants? Will it overturn SB 1070 and its “show me your papers” provision?
No. City law cannot overturn state law. The requirements of SB 1070 still stand, no matter how much we might wish them away. The way to overturn state law is at the state — or, in some cases, federal — level. Nationally, cities have little autonomy. And in Arizona, they have even less.
In Arizona, SB 1487 provides severe financial penalties for cities that pass ordinances in violation of state law. The state can take a city’s state-shared revenue and redistribute it to other cities. In Tucson, that’s more than $125 million a year—over 20% of the city’s General Fund, which pays for police and fire, parks and roads, and other core city services.
Parts of Prop. 205 clearly violate state law and, because it’s an initiative, the city council can’t “fix” it to comply with state law. Only the voters can do that, and only by another ballot measure.
No city ordinance can stop the federal government from enforcing federal immigration law. That’s not how our system of government works. And with a vindictive, anti-immigrant administration in Washington, there’s good reason to fear that a “sanctuary” label may result in a community’s being targeted for increased federal immigration enforcement.
Proposition 205 may have started out with good intentions, but its harmful effects would be felt by everyone—including the people it was meant to protect.
Jonathan Rothschild, a Democrat, is finishing his second term as mayor of Tucson