Poll: No consensus on policing immigration
Half of Arizonans don't want cops detaining entrants
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Tucson, Arizona |
PHOENIX Arizonans are sharply divided over whether their police departments should be enforcing immigration laws, according to a new statewide poll.
The survey conducted within the past week comes on the heels of several high-profile shootings of police officers in Maricopa County by illegal immigrants, including one killing.
Some organizations representing police officers have responded, saying they want to overturn policies limiting the ability to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they come across someone not in this country legally.
Several police chiefs want their departments to have little or nothing to do with helping to deport border crossers.
Pollster Bruce Merrill found 46 percent in favor of having local police finding and helping to detain those not here legally. But 50 percent said they oppose the idea.
Merrill, who conducted the poll for KAET-TV, the Phoenix PBS affiliate, said the division is not surprising.
He said many Arizonans are frustrated about what they see as lack of action to deport the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants living in the state, some of whom are criminals.
“But they're afraid that if the police do that, that the incidence of violent crime will go up,” Merrill said.
“It takes them away from doing what their primary job is.”
That has been the argument by the chiefs of several police departments that have policies barring officers from reporting a possible illegal immigrant to ICE unless that person is being arrested for some other offense.
But Mark Spencer, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said that attitude creates a “user-friendly environment” for those not here legally.
Dale Norris, director of the Arizona Police Association, said officers in his statewide organization “do not want unfunded mandates requiring officers to enforce immigration laws without discretion.” But he said cities should consider repealing policies that limit the ability of officers to call immigration officials.
“They run across people on a routine basis who are probably committing other crimes and are also here illegally,” he said. “It doesn't make any sense not to allow that point of contact to result in a deportation.”
Norris acknowledged concerns of people like Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda, who has said he doesn't want crime victims or witnesses who are here illegally to fear coming forward because they might be deported.
“We're not going to deport people who are calling because they need help from the police,” Norris said.
“But sometimes you just run across people (at) 4 o'clock in the morning, running through a neighborhood where they don't live,” he said. “You may come up with enough information to at least make the phone call … to have ICE come out and determine if this person is in the country legally or not.”