Wednesday, January 14, 2015

City Council's Review of Tucson Police Department's Enforcement of SB 1070 Gets Pulled, May Happen in February

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 5:00 PM

click to enlarge Tucson activist Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa at an SB 1070 enforcement protest in 2013. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • Tucson activist Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa at an SB 1070 enforcement protest in 2013.

Last month, at the Tucson City Council's last meeting of 2014, Council Members Regina  Romero, Paul Cunningham and Karin Uhlich pressured looking into how Tucson Police Department has been enforcing SB 1070, and the council agreed to do that during a study session in January.

The issue was listed in a draft for Jan. 21's study session, but when I checked this morning, it wasn't in the final schedule. I called Councilwoman Karin Uhlich to check in, and she was surprised to hear and later see that yes, the issue had been removed from next week's session. The mayor's office pulled it.

But that doesn't mean the council is no longer making that one of its focuses for the beginning of the year. Uhlich reinforced that they will continue to advocate and they'll likely discuss in it next month. Another draft of the study sessions' schedules said the TPD stuff "may move to Feb. 3."  

In December, a few days after that last Council meeting, TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor announced his department would no longer fully enforce SB 1070, which requires officers to check the immigration status of people in their custody—from a minor traffic stop to serious crimes.

During a press conference, Villaseñor said his department will now only look into immigration status and call the Border Patrol when a person has been convicted of a serious felony, could be a threat to national security or has gang affiliations. It went hand-in-hand with President Obama's November executive action, which relieved parents of U.S. citizen or legal resident children from deportation and gave them a work permit for the next three years. It also hopes to make a priority to deport criminals rather than separate families by arresting and kicking out hard-working people.

The chief also said that their enforcement hasn't been as bad as people thought: Out of 11,000 calls to the Border Patrol since July only received 94 replies, he said.

Up until Villaseñor's announcement about scaling back, all we'd hear is "we have to ably by the law," regardless of the racial profiling that went on. 

After being at the council meeting, where one of the main issues was the re-implementation of TPD officers in Tucson Unified and Amphitheater school districts' public schools and what that possibly meant to undocumented students if they wounded up under custody, it wasn't surprising to hear Villaseñor's decision to lay off. The public kept screaming words like "harassment," and the council made it clear that they were concerned about the negative effects SB 1070 has had in the community—many people's trust of and respect for the police pretty much went to hell.

Soon, the council will most likely be exploring at South Tucson and the changes made, in collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union, to their handling of SB 1070. The South Tucson Police Department now has a process in place, where an officer has to have probable cause that a person is committing or has committed a crime, pretty detailed paperwork has to be filled out if an immigration official is called, and if you are a victim or a witness of a crime then your status is irrelevant. 

Will Tucson adopt that policy? Either way, TPD's move from last month calmed a lot of people down, and major changes have already been made.

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