Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, says Phoenix police are violating provisions of a contentious 2010 law known as SB 1070 that requires police to inquire about the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.
Kavanagh said Friday that policy changes the department adopted in July illegally restrict when officers can inquire about a person’s immigration status. In addition, a new procedure requiring a specialized supervisor to vet the request puts roadblocks in the process to check with federal immigration officials.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police can’t hold someone longer than normally needed just to check their immigration status.
“These are pretty glaring violations of SB 1070,” Kavanagh said. “They shouldn’t have implemented a patently illegal police operations order.”
Kavanagh also said the policy on enforcement on school groups is illegal.
“They make their schools sanctuary islands,” he said. He said if police were called to a Friday night football game and suspected some adults were breaking the law and were also possibly illegally in the country, they couldn’t do anything.
“So you could have MS-13 gang members having amnesty while they’re on school grounds,” he said
Phoenix spokeswoman Julie Watters said the police policy was reviewed by numerous attorneys familiar with immigration law and is very similar to those in place in Mesa and Tucson.
“And, just like other cities throughout Arizona, our policy is designed to protect victims and witnesses and it complies with the directions we have received from school districts regarding school resource officers in public schools,” Watters said.
Kavanagh is asking the state attorney general to review the policy under a 2016 law allowing a single lawmaker to trigger an investigation. If the attorney general determines the policy conflicts with state law, the city will have 30 days to eliminate it or face loss of state tax revenues.
That would be exceptionally punitive for Phoenix, since it received nearly $175 million in state-shared revenue payments in 2015.
The 2010 law known as SB 1070 was passed as Republicans pushed to crack down on illegal immigration into Arizona. Several provisions were struck down by the courts, but the part dubbed by opponents the “show me your papers” provision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
That section requires officers to inquire about a person’s immigration status during contacts for violations of any state or local law or ordinance if they have reasonable suspicion the person might be in the country illegally. Kavanagh said several parts of the new police operations order illegally hinder that.
“In one section they say that the stop can only be if the person was pulled over for a crime. The law doesn’t say that — the law says any violation of any law or ordinance,” he said. “It can be littering, so they’re totally restrictive there.”