Senate Bill 1070 has once again been thrust in the national spotlight after the Supreme Court’s dissection of the bill, which has Republicans and Democrats both claiming a political victory.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing law enforcement to check the legal status of individuals suspected of being in the country illegally, but ruled against language that would criminalize an immigrant who is moving around the state without paperwork. The ruling also prohibits the criminalization of an immigrant upholding or seeking a job if not authorized to live in the United States.
But, while Democrats and Republicans continue to use the bill for political leverage, local police departments are saying they don’t expect to see much, if any change resulting from the ruling.
Jason Larter, Patrol Commander for the Oro Valley Police Department, said it will be business as usual.
“The reality is, this shouldn’t affect us,” said Larter. “If someone is suspicious, we will continue following the procedures we already do.”
Marana Police Chief Terry Rozema shared a similar point of view.
“Though there are still a number of things to be decided by the lower
courts, our position is similar to what it has been,” said Rozema. “We are giving our officers refresher training courses, but otherwise we will proceed as normal.”
With a minimum of 25 days to pass before the ruling goes into effect, Governor Jan Brewer has provided all Arizona law enforcement agencies with new training materials regarding how to properly handle a potential illegal immigrant.
“All officers are to view the video before August,” said Larter. “It’s a very basic video that has a lot to do with information regarding racial profiling.”
Though there has been some public outcry that SB1070 promotes racial profiling, Larter and Rozema said racial profiling is something that never has, and never will be tolerated in their departments.
“As the public is probably aware, the only portion of SB1070 to be deemed constitutional is the portion which allows officers to inquire about an individual’s immigration status,” said Rozema. “Once the bill plays out and the law is in effect, we will enforce that law, and we will do so without prejudice. We do not racial profile, we never have, and that will continue to be the case.”
Larter identified the types of suspicious behaviors that might cause further inquiries from an officer.
“They include things like not making eye contact, being unable to speak English at all or unable to produce any type of document, be it a driver’s license, credit card, library card, or if they are unwilling to respond to being asked where they are from,” he said.
Rozema added that an individual’s lack of existence in the police computer system is another sign.
Perhaps the least transparent part of the bill relates to how an individual’s fourth amendment rights will be protected in the case legal citizenship is undeterminable.
Larter said officers will do their best to make good judgment calls regarding how long they hold an individual while information is being processed.
The bill mandates that officers hand over illegal immigrants to border patrol agents, who then deal directly with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency.
“We generally will get in touch with the border patrol if we have suspicions,” said Larter. “If we can get an agent down in a reasonable amount of time, we will wait, but if not, and if we have more pressing things, we won’t detain further.”
Still, Larter said he would not be surprised to see lawsuits arise throughout the state because of the bill.
“It’s a hot button item,” he said. “The first time this bill came through, we saw some appeals, and I’d assume that will happen again.”