Arizona law enforcement agencies mostly say they won’t participate in widespread immigration raids cracking down on undocumented immigrants, no matter what President Donald Trump’s new executive order says.
The Phoenix, Tucson and Nogales police departments, as well as sheriffs from Yuma, Santa Cruz and Maricopa say officers will not target long-term undocumented immigrants who have no violent felony offenses.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said his officers would not target people simply for being undocumented residents, yet if they commit any crime, officers will turn them over to immigration officials. An earlier version of this story said his office would target long-term undocumented residents, whether they have a criminal history or not. He called after the story’s publication to say he never made that comment and to clarify his department’s position.
Dannels said Cochise County pursues all lawbreakers equally.
“We’re not going to just target the illegals,” Dannels said. “Those [who] break the state law, we will charge them, whether they are legally or illegally here.”
About 5 percent of Arizona’s population — some 325,000 people — are undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center.
When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained and later deported Guadalupe García de Rayos, who was brought to Arizona when she was 14 and has American children, the decision startled her family and caused uproar among immigrant rights activists.
The Phoenix Police Department made it clear that it was not involved in her detention. The department said it was only on the scene because protesters came to support Rayos.
“The Phoenix Police Department does not target anyone and was not a part of any recent events involving undocumented immigrants with minor criminal offenses,” Sgt. Jonathan Howard of the Phoenix Police Department said. “We will continue to enforce Arizona state laws, like identity theft and theft, but have no plans to implement a pro-active immigration enforcement squad.”
Phoenix isn’t alone. At the Tucson Women’s March on Washington, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild made it clear that he will advise Tucson officers not to seek out long-term undocumented immigrants, regardless of their minor criminal offenses.
The Nogales Police Department, too, said it will not participate in the prioritization of undocumented immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for years, according to its public information officer, Christina Bermudez.
“Nothing will change here,” Bermudez said.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s office took a similar position.
“We have received no specific directives from Department of Homeland Security regarding the executive order,” said Mark Casey, the sheriff office’s spokesman. “While we will abide by both our constitutional duties and by the directives of the court, we will not be doing raids nor will we tolerate targeting individuals because of the color of their skin.”
Yuma County sheriff officials said nothing will change in their county either, adding that they, too, will not be prioritizing long-term undocumented immigrants with minor criminal offenses.
Santa Cruz County sheriff officials said they oppose having their deputies act as immigration officers.
“I have not had any official order to start doing immigration work,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada. “We are not immigration officers. We do not have the authority. I do not welcome that, and hopefully it is something that we will not have to do.”
He added: “I don’t think federal government has the right nor should they have the authority to tell us what to do with immigration.”
Quentin Mehr, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said DPS does not plan to have Arizona officers search for undocumented immigrants.
A Gallup poll showed that two-thirds of Americans oppose deporting undocumented immigrants, and 84 percent are in favor of building a path to citizenship for long-term undocumented immigrants. More than three-fourths of Republicans support a path to citizenship, according to the poll.
A CBS News Poll from Jan. 13-16, 2017, showed similar results, with a majority of respondents favoring a program for undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. and eventually apply for citizenship.