Guest Commentary

Councilperson Kozachik makes a case for the repeal of SB 1070

When SB 1070 was first adopted, it was an embarrassment to the state. In order to set ourselves apart from its effects, and to preserve the relationships we were developing across the border, the Tucson Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to oppose it. Now SB 1070 has become a threat to the cohesion of our community. It needs to be repealed in its entirety by the Legislature.

From the start, this was a poorly crafted law. It has been through the courts and several elements of the original legislation have been deemed unconstitutional. And yet, those that remain are tearing apart relationships that have taken years to develop.

Let's be clear. Local law enforcement agencies are not I.C.E. and should never have been placed in the position of having to do the job of federal immigration agents. And yet, that's exactly the position in which the State Legislature has placed our local police officers. And the law contains language that gives anybody the ability to sue a jurisdiction believed to be failing to properly enforce 1070.

There may be ways we can trim around the edges of the statute and ease some of the tension now being expressed out in the community. For example, we might adopt a policy that says in a normal 'stop and release' situation, TPD will not detain a person any longer than it takes to conduct the normal business associated with a particular stop. Once they've got what they need, they won't hold people waiting for Border Patrol to arrive. Or we might explore refraining from detaining juveniles in cases not involving criminal activities. As long as we're not giving direction to our law enforcement officers to ignore or explicitly fail to enforce the law, we can and should seek our own legal counsel to find ways to mitigate the impact on the community.

What we cannot do is to direct TPD to simply not enforce SB 1070. That's expressly prohibited in the terms of the law. And that's the reason repealing it is the only acceptable solution.

Two years ago, during the time in which our State Legislature was seemingly hyper-ventilating over passing one immigration bill after another, a group of 50 businessmen from around the state wrote a letter to the Legislature. In it they in effect told them to 'knock it off.' Demonstrating that their immediate guiding principle is re-election, the Legislature took the cue and stepped away from the issue. The principle of 'hit 'em in the pocket book' prevailed.

But SB 1070 was already on the books, and today we're still reeling from its effects.

To the Arpaio/Brewer wing of the Republican party, SB 1070 may appear as a nicely prepared Honey Baked Ham. To those of us who see its impact tearing apart our community, it's just a pig. We can trim the fat off the edges, but it's still a pig. The law does a disservice to local law enforcement officers, and it continues to do a disservice to us as a diverse community.

As a local elected official, I cannot give direction to our police chief to adopt policies that expressly violate the law he has taken an oath to uphold. What I can do though is to work with my colleagues in finding ways to insert legal processes that tend to ease the tensions now being seen on nearly a nightly basis on the local news.

And what I can also do is to advocate openly for our State Legislature to send SB 1070 into the dust bin of history — it needs to be completely repealed. Anything short of that is not a solution. Supporting repeal should be a litmus test for any state level candidate seeking election in 2014.

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