Tucson Police Scale Back SB1070 Enforcement

By Kate Sheehy
December 18, 2014
Kate Sheehy
Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor in August

The Tucson Police Department said it will stop some immigration checks by Friday. The agency said it will scale back enforcement of Arizona’s controversial immigration law SB1070, in part because of President Barack Obama’s executive action.

The highest priorities for removal outlined in Obama’s immigration order are people who pose a national security threat, are convicted of a prior felony, or have gang affiliation.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said his officers will now only check immigration status and notify U.S. Border Patrol for individuals that fall into these categories. 

SB1070 requires local police to check immigration status if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.

Villaseñor said the changes are also a result of the lack of effectiveness in the department’s collaboration with Border Patrol. He said out of more than 11,000 calls made to Border Patrol since the summer, federal agents have responded to less than 100. 

“At this point it, it’s really a futile effort to call them. Less than half a percent of the time if they take anyone in custody that we stop, that’s not really a practical application of the law,” Villaseñor said.

A spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department said there are no plans at this time to make any changes to current policy.

James Lyall, an attorney with the ACLU in Arizona, said it has yet to be seen what sort of impact these changes will have in the community.

“Are they going to have any impact on racial profiling, or preventing officers from stopping or questioning people without authority,” he said. 

Lyall said local police do not have the authority to stop and detain people solely to investigate their immigration status.

Villaseñor said the times when his officers have run immigration checks they have been in conjunction with arrests.