Arizona will send some of its Department of Public Safety officers to special training to enforce immigration laws.
But Gov. Janet Napolitano said their focus will be on enforcing crime associated with illegal immigration, such as human smuggling — and not to arrest otherwise law-abiding people who are in the U.S. illegally.
The DPS will send a letter today to Immigration and Customs Enforcement asking for 100 of its 1,200 sworn officers to receive the special training necessary for local police to enforce federal laws, something they are not normally permitted to do.
The five-week session is designed to help officers decide who is in this country in violation of federal immigration laws.
The officers, once certified, can start the deportation process on those whom they detain.
But the governor specifically said illegal immigrants should not be worried if they’re not breaking any other laws.
“The DPS is not going to be engaged in roundups,” she said. Napolitano specifically cited the 1997 incident in Chandler where local police, working with federal immigration officers, went after anyone they thought was in this country illegally.
About 400 people were detained — including some U.S. citizens.
“That’s not what they’re going to do,” she said. “They’re going to be working on cases, crimes that are related to illegal immigration.”
She said they will be “targeting the smuggling rings and the money launderers and the gangs that are related to illegal immigration.”
Napolitano conceded that DPS officers do not need the special training and special authority to enforce immigration law for crimes which are violations of state law. She said the officers are getting the special cross-training so they can arrest illegal border crossers if they happen to come across them.
The governor said she would expect that DPS officers will be paired at most times with a federal officer.
But, she said, if it turned out that someone apprehended by a DPS officer was charged with violating federal immigration laws, the training would “make sure there’s no jurisdictional questions.”
Napolitano said this isn’t the first time state employees have been trained to spot people in this country illegally: Some workers at the state Department of Corrections have the same training, which allows them to figure out which inmates set for release should be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers rather than simply being released onto Arizona streets.