by Dustin Gardiner - Apr. 20, 2010 08:27 AM
The Arizona Republic
One of Glendale's police officer unions is endorsing an effort by state
lawmakers to give Arizona some of the toughest immigration laws in the
Senate Bill 1070 would make illegal immigration a misdemeanor offense
under state law, allowing local law enforcement officers to detain
individuals on suspicion of being in the country illegally if they
cannot produce a valid government ID or registration card.
The bill is expected to head toward Gov. Jan Brewer's desk for a signature within the coming days.
Officer Justin Harris, president of the Glendale Law Enforcement
Association, said the bill gives police, who are only charged with
enforcing state laws, the power to detain undocumented immigrants and
turn them over to federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents.
"It takes the handcuffs off law enforcement," he said. "Our hands are tied without these laws in place."
Harris said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Russell Pearce of Mesa, approached
GLEA and other police unions at the start of the legislative session to
secure their support.
Opponents of the bill say it would promote racial profiling and prevent
potential witnesses from coming forward or cooperating with police out
of fear they could be deported.
"I get calls from mothers whose 15-year-old daughters get raped and
they're afraid to call police," said Hector Yturralde, a Latino activist
and former president of the Arizona Hispanic Community Forum.
"All these laws being passed are nothing but Jim Crow wannabes," he
added, referring to laws in the Old South enforcing white supremacy.
Harris said the undocumented community has no reason to fear police will
be overzealous to the point of arresting victims or witnesses.
"We're not going to treat the victim as a criminal," he said.
Given the budget cuts facing Glendale and other cities, Yturralde
questions why police would use their limited resources to pursue people
for "minor" immigration violations when they could be going after
Harris argues that by taking illegal immigrants off the streets, police will be preventing future crimes they might commit.
He said someone who "sneaks past border agents through the desert and
under fences" knows they're doing something illegal and is more likely
to commit other crimes.
"If we can focus on stopping the less serious crime, that in itself stops crime," Harris said.
Yturralde said there's no clear evidence to support claims that illegal immigrants commit crimes in higher numbers.
"Not even the FBI has these statistics," he said. "This is absolutely insane."
Glendale's other law enforcement union, the Fraternal Order of Police, has not taken a position on the legislation.