Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez has asked federal officials to start training his staff on the finer points of immigration law, helping deputies determine who should and shouldn’t be in the United States.
The tutelage scheduled for October in Florence will better prepare deputies and jailers to follow Proposition 100, a voter-approved measure that says illegal immigrants arrested for certain felonies cannot be released on bond, Vasquez said. And it will also let deputies making arrests for any crime hold illegal immigrants for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for deportation proceedings.
Immigration activists expressed concern about the training and empowerment of local officers to interpret federal law.
“I just don’t think it’s the right place to be enforcing the federal laws,” said Lindsay Marshall, acting executive director of the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, which helps immigrants across Arizona with legal services.
She said the repercussions could come with an increasing number of people with minor violations being put through removal proceedings, and immigrants could be driven from cooperating with local law enforcement.
Vasquez said he initially plans to place five deputies and five detention officers in the class for training. The sheriff’s office will do this periodically until most deputies are trained, he said.
The thrust behind his request is due to Prop. 100 and the need to make sure authorities follow the rule and let the courts know about each inmate’s residency status.
“I don’t want to have us make a mistake where someone under Prop. 100 should have been deemed an undocumented alien and because of our lack of knowledge or training we send them over there and they get released on bail when they should not,” Vasquez said.
While the training will also allow deputies making even misdemeanor arrests to hold illegal immigrants for ICE, Vasquez made it clear he doesn’t want to start racial profiling and pulling over people just because they might be an illegal immigrant.
“It’s not my intent to go and do immigration’s job and go do illegal round-ups,” he said. “My job is to give my guys the tools that if we do come across undocumented aliens we have the tools, the training and the knowledge to do it the right way.”
In 1996, a section was added to the federal Immigration and Nationality Act allowing state and local officers and corrections workers to be trained to enforce immigration law. This allows local authorities working with ICE to pursue investigations relating to violent crimes, human smuggling and provide support to ICE.
The training lasts five weeks and teaches officers such things as criminal law, document examination, removal charges and how to determine who’s here illegally and how to avoid racial profiling, said Vinnie Picard, spokesman for ICE in Arizona.