Activists decry bill on immigration enforcement - East Valley Tribune: News

Activists decry bill on immigration enforcement

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Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2008 7:44 pm | Updated: 9:24 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Civic leaders lashed out Wednesday at state lawmakers who voted for a bill that would force local police and sheriff's departments to help enforce federal immigration laws.

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Lydia Guzman, vice president of Somos America, was particularly miffed with Hispanic legislators, virtually all of whom agreed to support HB2807. And the Rev. Luz Santiago, pastor of Iglesia Puebla de Dios in Mesa, said lawmakers need to be reminded that "we're the ones that can vote you out."

The only way to kill the measure now is to convince Gov. Janet Napolitano to veto it.

The organization, whose name translates to "We Are America," asked Napolitano to do just that, saying that mandating such programs would only increase the incidence of racial profiling. They also called it a divisive bill that polarizes the state between "the pro-immigrant reformers and the anti-immigrant groups infiltrated by hate organizations like the neo-Nazis and KKK."

Napolitano said she has not yet decided whether to sign or veto HB2807.

But Rep. Tom Prezelski, D-Tucson, said the governor should sign it. He said the legislation is nowhere near as onerous as its foes believe.

"The bill does very little," he said. In fact, Prezelski said, local law enforcement agencies can comply with the provisions by doing as little as establishing "operational relationships" with federal agencies to help determine whether the people they deal with are legal U.S. residents.

Sen. Amanda Aguirre, D-Yuma, said the experience in her county proves those relationships are valuable.

"That communication has been strategic in finding when there are illegal immigrants who are criminals," Aguirre said, adding that both gang activity and drug trafficking have decreased.

But the real key, Prezelski said, is that passage of the bill could help thwart efforts to seek voter approval of a far more comprehensive measure being pushed by Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa.

Pearce's bill, HCR2039, would empower all local police officers to arrest anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant. Prezelski called HCR2039 "absolutely ridiculous."

That argument did not convince Guzman.

"We know that there was some negotiation that was done," she said about the notion that some lawmakers supported HB2807 as an alternative to Pearce's measure. "We're very saddened to see that some of the legislators did not take the time to ask the community how this would affect the real lives of human beings."

The bill approved by lawmakers mandates that city and county law enforcement agencies have programs to deal with violations of federal immigration laws.

But its wording gives agencies a menu of options.

The one that upsets Guzman and her allies allows special federal training to authorize local police to enforce federal immigration laws. That's the kind of certification Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has obtained for some of his deputies.

Those deputies have been involved in "sweeps" of some neighborhoods, looking for people committing minor violations such as traffic offenses so they can be stopped and questioned about their presence in the U.S.

Guzman said there first needs to be an investigation of that agreement to determine if such activities violate basic civil rights.

HB2807 also would allow agencies to comply by embedding federal immigration officers within their organizations, or they could simply establish those "operational relationships" with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.

The Pearce measure, on the other hand, would expand state laws against trespass to include anyone in this country illegally, whether on public or private property, in essence giving all police officers the power to arrest them.

Both bills contain identical provisions that prohibit cities from forbidding their employees to exchange information with federal agencies about a suspected illegal immigrant.

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