Days after Judicial Watch exposed a new policy banning Phoenix police from contacting the feds after arresting illegal aliens, alarming pressure on the city council and chief of police has forced officials in Arizona’s largest city to postpone the order. Crafted at a Hispanic advisory committee that promotes open borders, the policy also prohibits officers from asking about suspects’ immigration status. The new policy’s two principle measures violate key provisions of a state law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and leave the city vulnerable to costly lawsuits.
In the aftermath of Judicial Watch’s story, which included a copy of the Phoenix sanctuary Immigration Procedures, police management is backing off and reconsidering the ramifications. Sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Judicial Watch that Phoenix Police Department brass is worried about getting sued under an Arizona law that states the following: “No official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may limit or restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.”
The measure also states this: “If an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States is convicted of a violation of state or local law, on discharge from imprisonment or on the assessment of any monetary obligation that is imposed, the United States immigration and customs enforcement or the United States customs and border protection shall be immediately notified.”
Following Judicial Watch’s initial report, the chief of the Phoenix Police Department, Jeri Williams, issued an unusual and unprecedented Employee Notification System (ENS) delaying the new sanctuary order. The ENS was titled “Operations Order 4.48 Revision” and states the following: “Operations Order 4.48, which provides direction regarding immigration related issues, is still being reviewed and revised. The anticipated effective date, July 10th, 2017, is no longer achievable. The final revisions should be completed within the coming weeks. A new effective date will be shared once the policy has been finalized.”
Williams is Phoenix’s first female police chief and agency sources tell Judicial Watch she tried to quietly implement the sanctuary measures, perhaps hoping they’d go unnoticed. Earlier this year the chief, who was hired last summer, alluded to her stance on immigration enforcement in a local newspaper article questioning whether Arizona’s 325,000 illegal aliens trust the police. Chief Williams is quoted saying this: “We maintain open communication with our diverse residents and want to ensure that our crime victims and witnesses feel comfortable and confident when reporting crimes to our officers. As your chief, I commit to you that racial profiling will not be tolerated.”
The Phoenix Police Department has about 3,000 officers that were permitted to use “sound judgement” at any time under the agency’s longtime immigration enforcement policy. That allowed front-line officers to directly contact federal immigration officials involving criminal illegal immigrants. Under the revised policy, all contact with federal immigration partners must be funneled through a single Violent Crimes Bureau (VCB) desk sergeant who will document all immigration related data and give authority to call ICE. “This will bottle-neck the process,” according to a veteran Phoenix law enforcement official who added that the new policy was generated without any input from rank-and-file. Arizona law enforcement sources also told Judicial Watch that no other restrictions of this kind and magnitude regarding a federal crime are found in Phoenix Police Department policy. Officers continue to have the discretion to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Postal Inspectors, U.S. Marshalls and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) without fear of violating department policy.
If an illegal alien is arrested for a state crime, officers in Phoenix would no longer be allowed to take them directly to ICE for deportation and document the crime in a report if the sanctuary measures get adopted. Taxpayers must fund a mandated booking into county jail under the new rules, which state; “if there is a federal criminal charge and the person is under arrest for a state and/or local charge/s…the person will be booked into the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office…” Keep in mind that Maricopa Sheriff Paul Penzone doesn’t like honoring ICE holds on jailed aliens and considers illegal immigrants “guests.” The new Phoenix Police Department rules also eliminate a table showing state immigration enforcement laws as well as documentation of police contacts with verified and/or suspected illegal aliens, a troublesome change that omits valuable city crime statistics.
Besides forbidding questioning suspects regarding place of birth, country of citizenship and legal status in the United States, the postponed Phoenix policy says that transportation of illegal aliens to ICE by officers has been eliminated for civil immigration violations unless the illegal alien “consents to a transport.” Both restrictions violate key provisions of a 2010 Arizona law known as Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB1070). Open borders and civil rights groups fought the law in federal court and succeeded in getting rid of many of its mandates but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld two key clauses in Section 2 of the measure.
The first, requires law enforcement officers to determine a suspects’ 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. The new Phoenix sanctuary measure, also replace the term “illegal alien” with “a person unlawfully present.”
Judicial Watch will continue investigating Phoenix’s efforts to provide illegal immigrants sanctuary and has filed public records requests for the police department’s communications with third-party groups pushing for the now-paused policy change.