Phoenix becoming known as kidnap capital, new bill could help

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PHOENIX -- In an effort to fight the growing drop-house and human smuggling problem in Phoenix, which is becoming known as the kidnap capital, a new bill making its way through the State Legislature is a step closer to giving local police agencies the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

Illegal immigration

Phoenix becoming known as kidnap capital, new bill could help - To help fight the growing drop-house and human smuggling problem, a new bill is a step closer to giving local police agencies the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

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An Arizona Senate committee approved the measure on Tuesday.

The bill basically expands Arizona's trespassing law. If passed, local law enforcement would be able to arrest people for being in the country illegally. The first offense would be a misdemeanor, the second a felony. Local prosecutors could try those who are arrested, which could lead to prison time.

Also under the bill, people could sue city officials who limit the full enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department said three large drop houses have been busted in the past week alone, and nearly 70 this year. More than 1,000 illegal immigrants have been taken into custody at those drop houses and then handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

While the Phoenix Police Department says its current partnership with ICE works well, it will have to re-evaluate how it handles situations like drop houses if the bill passes.

"Right now, where we find our most effective use of our manpower is we go out and target those who are involved in crime," Thompson said. "Because of that, we've seen a and we see a percentage of those people -- which stays pretty much the same -- who are illegally in the country and those people get turned over to ICE.

"Each year, we turn over more than 5,000 people ultimately to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Our efforts, again, are directed toward those who are involved in crime. We want to make sure the community understands that if you're the victim or witness of a crime, you don't have to fear the Phoenix Police Department as far as your immigration status."

Arizona is the busiest illegal entry point in the country. Supporters of the bill say it's needed to let local law enforcement help deal with that. Those who oppose the bill, including several agencies, say it will take police officers away from fighting other crimes.

While the Senate Appropriations committee approved the bill 8-3, it has to make it was through two more committees before going to the full Senate.