Group claims Tucson police enforcing banned portions of SB 1070Posted: Updated:
NOTE: This story has been corrected from an earlier version that unintentionally indicated TPD initiated immigration investigations.
The tough, new immigration standards outlined in Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 are on hold thanks to a federal district judge. But one group in Tucson is claiming local law enforcement is enforcing it anyway; stopping people, asking for documentation, and calling the Border Patrol. They claim it happened this weekend on the south side.
An amateur video shot in South Tucson Friday night shows several South Tucson Police cars and two men in handcuffs while a Border Patrol van waits nearby.
The video is the work of Copwatch, also known as Migra Patrol.
"We don't want to do this work, but we have to. And it's very unfortunate," says Cruz.
"Cruz" claims Copwatch has received more calls recently of local police engaging in what they call "Arpaio-style sweeps."
She claims Tucson Police did the same thing Friday night on Irvington near south 6th Avenue.
"Friday afternoon we got a series of phone calls and text messages from business owners, workers, and other people in the community, saying that the police were stopping all cars with Mexican plates," Cruz calls it racial profiling.
Tucson Police say that's not the case.
Representatives from TPD say they do not do immigration sweep-style deployments. What happened is what they call a "crime reduction deployment" which is one of four that they had scheduled in operations divisions south this summer.
"This is one of the many many planned deployments that we have been engaged in this summer, to deal with specific crime issues, and had absolutely nothing to do with immigration status," says Asst. Chief Brett Klein of the Tucson Police Department.
In that case, the specific crime issues dealt with robberies and larcenies in the area.
"We don't do immigration sweeps. We don't specifically go out and target people for the specific purpose of enforcing immigration," Assistant Chief Klein calls the accusations a result of a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity in the wake of SB 1070.
Cruz says the community is in fear, "They're afraid to call police because right now the police is the enemy."
In the meantime, activists will continue documenting allegations of abuse.
"That isn't anything that's new to us," says Klein.
Police say they're ready and they're simply doing their jobs.
Tucson Police say sometimes they have to call Border Patrol to assist them if they discover someone who's in the country illegally, but that's only when the investigation does not start off as an immigration issue. Assistant Chief Brett Klein says those cases only happen on a limited basis.
And a controversial new billboard might have people hitting the brakes in Phoenix. The sign targets SB 1070, Arizona's new immigration law. It reads, "Have your papers ready. Racial profiling just ahead."
The sign was paid for by a Latino-rights group, who chose the slogan after holding an on-line vote.