AZ Law Enforcement Agencies ‘Supplement’ SB-1070 With Their Own Policies

police_badge_for_web_When Arizona legislators enacted SB-1070, they argued that it would compel police to uniformly enforce immigration law, rather than relying on discretion or local community policing policies. However, the Arizona Republic reports that “there is anything but a uniform approach.” Although all Arizona officers have reviewed a training video, according to a survey of local law enforcement agencies, many “have supplemented that training with their own policies.” The Arizona Republic summarizes the distinct approaches that five different law enforcement entities plan on taking if and when they are required to check immigration status:

• Arizona Department of Public Safety officers will work through the agency’s dispatch centers, which will determine whether officers should contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection or federally trained local agents to verify the immigration status of a suspect.

• Flagstaff has instructed officers to enforce the statute as written, although Lt. Ken Koch said the statute isn’t entirely clear. “That statute is subject to interpretation,” he said. “It’s a very fluid and dynamic situation.”

• In Yuma County, where sheriff’s deputies patrol an area that includes a shared border with Mexico, deputies will continue to work with Border Patrol agents when there are questions about a suspect’s immigration status, sheriff’s Capt. Eben Bratcher said.

• Phoenix police officers will be required to contact federal authorities to verify the immigration status of everyone they arrest, regardless of whether the suspects have one of the “presumptive IDs” such as an Arizona driver’s license that the statewide training outlined.

• Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s department, the most fervent agency in the state when it comes to rooting out illegal immigrants, won’t be attempting to determine anyone’s immigration status unless deputies are taking that suspect into custody for another crime.

Reporter Jeffrey Kaye notes in the Huffington Post that the training process itself has been inconsistent across Arizona. “Some agencies require officers to attend sessions of three hours or more and distribute manuals; others simply oblige their officers to watch a 94-minute video,” writes Kaye. Meanwhile, the 287(g) program which was established by Congress and allows police to cooperate with federal immigration agents in enforcing immigration law provides a four-week training program. Despite the fact that 287(g) participating officers receive significantly more training than Arizona police will, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general released a stinging critique of the 287(g) program last year.

The Obama administration has argued that it is suing the state of Arizona in part because the U.S. cannot have a “patchwork” of immigration laws. The vague provisions of SB-1070 have only added to the confusion within the state of Arizona. The law requires police officers to verify the immigration status of individuals, when “practicable,” during a lawful lawful stop or detention if they establish “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented. However, SB-1070 doesn’t define “practicable” or “reasonable suspicion.” And though a federal judge enjoined several of the most problematic provisions of SB-1070, including the provision requiring police to check immigration status, Judge Susan Bolton still has to issue final rulings on the multiple lawsuits challenging the law. All of her decisions will likely be repealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, regardless of how she rules.