Judicial Watch: Phoenix ban on police asking about immigration status ignores state law, Supreme Court

By Gage Cohen / CNS

(CNSNews.com) – A new policy implemented by the Phoenix Police Department bans its officers from asking an individual about his or her immigration status, and from contacting federal immigration officials, without meeting new guidelines.

According to Judicial Watch, this policy is in clear violation of Arizona state law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. In Arizona v. United States, the court affirmed two relevant clauses of Arizona immigration law:

“The first, requires law enforcement officers to determine a suspect’s immigration status if ‘reasonable suspicion’ exists that the person is in the U.S. illegally. This grants officers the discretion that has just been stripped in Phoenix.

“The other clause in Section 2 allows state law enforcement officers to transport illegal immigrants directly to federal custody.”

A copy of the Phoenix Police Department’s policy obtained by Judicial Watch states that officers must first receive authorization before contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and imposes new restrictions on asking individuals about their immigration status:

“Officers must not ask immigration related questions or verify immigration status while conducting traffic enforcement unless required by state law as specified above in sections 1.E.(1) and (2) of this order.”

Sections 1.E.1 and 1.E.2 allow officers to ask about an individual’s immigration status only if “a person is under arrest based on probable cause” or “a person is lawfully stopped/detained for a state or local crime and only when the officer develops further reasonable suspicion the detained person is unlawfully present in the United States.”

Previously, law enforcement officials were permitted to ask about a person’s immigration status at any time, using “sound judgement.” The department’s approximately 3,000 officers were previously able to directly contact ICE.

Now, any officer who needs to contact federal immigrations officials must first receive permission from the state’s Violent Crimes Bureau (VCB). “This will bottleneck the process,” a veteran Phoenix officer told Judicial Watch.

The need for authorization to contact federal officials seems to be unique to immigration. Police officers are currently allowed to contact other federal agencies – such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) – without going through any sort of permission-granting process.

“If an illegal alien is arrested for a state crime, officers in Phoenix are no longer allowed to take them directly to ICE for deportation and document the crime in a report,” Judicial Watch notes.

The new guidelines require a suspect to first be booked in a county, taxpayer-funded jail. Additionally, officers are not permitted to transport illegal immigrants to ICE without first receiving the suspect’s “consent to transport,” unless they are wanted for a criminal immigration violation and there are no state criminal charges.

Phoenix’s new sheriff, Paul Penzone, seems to be implementing policies with the purpose of making his city softer on illegal immigration.

The sheriff refers to illegal immigrants in his jail as “guests,” and Judicial Watch previously reported that Penzone was releasing an average of “400 criminal illegal aliens every 10 days.”

“There’s no telling how many criminals he’s (Sheriff Penzone) putting on the streets,” said a veteran Phoenix officer.

Phoenix’s new guidelines also replaces the term “illegal alien” with “a person unlawfully present.”

“It appears to be part of a broader scheme to dodge federal immigration laws in Arizona’s most populous county,” argues Judicial Watch.


This story appeared at Judicial Watch in the “In the News” section.

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