Sanctuary city bills are ‘today’s SB1070,’ immigrant rights groups warn

By: - February 7, 2020 11:51 am

Tony Valdovinos (center) and Ricardo Zamudio (right) from LUCHA speak to a receptionist in Gov. Doug Ducey’s office in Phoenix. They were there to submit a letter asking the governor to strike down on legislative efforts to strengthen the collaboration between law enforcement and immigration officials. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

Immigrant advocacy groups on Thursday called on Gov. Doug Ducey and lawmakers to stand down on efforts to strengthen the collaboration between law enforcement and immigration officials. 

Two legislative proposals, House Bill 2598 and House Concurrent Resolution 2036, are dubbed by proponents as a ban on sanctuary cities and measures to increase public safety, but several community groups say they are a new version of the state’s controversial immigration enforcement law Senate Bill 1070, which was enacted 10 years ago.

“When SB1070 passed in 2010, it unleashed state-mandated racial profiling of Latino Arizonans. Now, the legislature is creating SB1070+,” states a petition created by Living United for Change Arizona, which advocates for immigrant communities and working class families. “The economic blowback from SB1070 was severely consequential, and HB2598 furthers the same divisive and racist regime.”

HB2598, sponsored by Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, would require Arizona agencies and local jurisdictions to comply with immigration detainers. Those are requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made to local law enforcement to hold a person in detention until federal agents can pick them up for deportation proceedings. Texas already requires this. 

But Roberts’s proposal also creates a civil penalty for government officials, state agencies or law enforcement officers who intentionally or knowingly fail to comply with an immigration detainer. It also would allow victims of certain crimes that resulted from that failed immigration enforcement compliance to sue for civil damages.

In a January press release announcing his bill, Roberts said it’s fair to hold cities, counties or towns liable for “any harm done by illegal immigrants” they encounter and release after police operations.

“The protections being granted to those here illegally is more protection than what we afford our own citizens; it’s time we level the playing field,” he said. 

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Donald Trump also alluded to supporting similar sanctuary city liability policies.   

Legislative proposals to ban sanctuary city policies, increase immigration enforcement

The bill was scheduled for a hearing Thursday in the House Government Committee, but it was removed from the agenda at the last minute.This proposal is sponsored by all 31 Republicans in the state House of Representatives.

Outside the House building, roughly 40 people gathered in a circle Thursday morning. They represented community groups like LUCHA, Tomorrow We Vote, Arizona Equal Voice Network and Arizona Jews for Justice. Rep. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, told the group about a similar gathering 10 years ago when the legislature was considering SB1070.

“Ten years ago … we were standing in a prayer circle just like this, but it was seven people,” she said. “We have to send a message that we are stronger than ever.

“We know that today’s SB1070 this (HB)2598 is coming with the same intent: to create division, to create fear. But the difference is that we are stronger and we are going to fight on a different level than we’ve ever fought before,” Terán said. 

She said in the years since SB1070, groups have established networks. Many of the people whose entrance into politics was defiance of the bill are now community and elected leaders.

Tony Valdovinos is among them. As an undocumented immigrant, he helped recall then-Sen. Rusell Pearce, who sponsored and pushed SB1070 through the legislature. Valdovinos now runs a political campaign operation called La Machine. His experiences in high school as an aspiring Marine who couldn’t enlist because he was undocumented inspired a production from Phoenix Theatre Company. The play is called “¡Americano!” and opened Jan. 29.

Ducey attended one of the first showings of the musical. He called it inspirational.

On Thursday, Valdovinos delivered a letter to Ducey’s office. 

“The musical is inspirational because of perseverance, but the obstacles were created here at the Capitol,” Valdovinos said. 

He called on the governor to strike down bills like HB2598. He also requested a meeting with Ducey. 

“Pointing the finger towards immigrants creates more division,” Valdovinos said. “These bills don’t make us safer as a community, these bills divide our community. These kinds of bills are very destructive for our economy and are not constructive whatsoever.” 

Ducey is championing legislation to strengthen immigration enforcement. In his State of the State speech last month, the Republican state leader called for a constitutional amendment to ban sanctuary cities in Arizona.

Rep. T.J. Shope’s HCR2036 does that. It is a constitutional amendment prohibiting restrictions to collaborations between local police and federal immigration agents. It also allows ICE to expect compliance from local police on any requests it makes regarding arrests of immigrants.

“Reckless sanctuary city policies that impede the ability of our law enforcement to do their jobs have no place in Arizona,” Shope, a Coolidge Republican, said in a Feb. 4 press release announcing HCR2036. “This amendment lets the people’s voice be heard and gives all Arizonans the chance to stand up for the rule of law.”

There’s also no legal definition for sanctuary cities. It broadly includes places that limit local involvement in federal immigration enforcement

Several law enforcement heads back Shope’s bill. Sheriffs Scott Mascher, Mark Dannels, Jim Driscoll of Yavapai, Cochise, and Coconino counties, respectively, joined in the support for Shope’s proposal. Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adell also applauded the measure. 

A national group that represents a coalition of faith, law enforcement, business leaders who advocate for immigration policies said HRC2036 is “problematic” because its language is expansive.

“It’s too broad and sweeping, and doesn’t allow for local jurisdictions to make the decision that is best for their community,” said Adam Estle, with the Arizona chapter of the National Immigration Forum.

The efforts at the state legislature to pass bans on so-called sanctuary cities, which also includes Rep. Jay Lawrence’s House Bill 2095, are a response to efforts like the Tucson Families Free and Together, a ballot measure rejected by voters in November that sought to make Tucson the state’s first sanctuary city.

There is no federal legal definition for sanctuary jurisdiction. No Arizona law defines it, either. But many regard one of the remaining sections of SB1070 that wasn’t struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as a ban on these policies. 

That section states that a local jurisdiction that “adopts or implements a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigrations laws (…) to less than the full extent permitted by federal law” can be sued by any state resident. The civil penalties range from $500 to $5,000 for each day the policy is in effect.

Crafters of the Tucson initiative said their measure didn’t conflict with that section of SB1070. The proposal carved out how city police conduct traffic stops and what factors couldn’t be used to determine someone’s immigration status. Since the Tucson ballot measure, several Republican lawmakers sought to strengthen prohibitions on sanctuary cities.

The initiative sought to prohibit Tucson from using funds to train federal agents to enforce local rules, and banned partnerships with federal agencies without a formal agreement between the parties. Further, any interagency agreements couldn’t be for the purpose of enforcing civil provisions of immigration law.

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.