Phoenix PD Bans Officers from Asking About Immigration Status, Calling Feds in Violation of State Law

by JUDICIAL WATCH July 8, 2017

Police officials in Arizona's largest city have quietly implemented a new policy banning officers from contacting the feds after arresting an illegal alien and forbidding them from asking about immigration status, in violation of key provisions of a state law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Judicial Watch obtained a copy of the Phoenix Police Department's new sanctuary Immigration Procedures, which also replace the term "illegal alien" with "a person unlawfully present." It appears to be part of a broader scheme to dodge federal immigration laws in Arizona's most populous county.

Earlier this year Judicial Watch reported that the newly elected sheriff in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, was releasing an average of 400 criminal illegal immigrants every 10 days. Many of them were violent offenders, but the sheriff, Paul Penzone, released them from Maricopa County Jail facilities, to protect them from deportation. The illegal aliens had state criminal charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies, driving under the influence and drug offenses. "There's no telling how many criminals he's (Sheriff Penzone) putting on the streets," a high-ranking federal law enforcement official stationed in Arizona told Judicial Watch. Under a longtime partnership between the county and the feds, the Phoenix field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was notified when "aliens unlawfully present with additional Arizona charges" were released from the Maricopa County Jail, which is one of the nation's largest with a population of about 8,000. That ended when Penzone, who refers to illegal immigrants as "guests," took office this year.

The Phoenix Police Department has about 3,000 officers that were permitted to use "sound judgement" at any time under the agency's former immigration enforcement policy. That allowed front-line officers to directly contact federal immigration officials involving criminal illegal immigrants. The revised policy, issued just weeks ago, mandates all contact with federal immigration partners to 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 are no longer allowed to take them directly to ICE for deportation and document the crime in a report. 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 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 new 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.

Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation's public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach.


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