Gila County officers were trained and ready to implement the state’s new immigration law Thursday when a Valley judge issued a temporary injunction to the bill’s most controversial measures Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton delayed implementation of several sections of the bill, including the requirement that officers check a person’s immigration status during a lawful stop and arrest them if they suspect they are illegal immigrants and the requirement that immigrants carry their papers at all times.
Gila County Sheriff John Armer said he sees Bolton’s temporary injunction as a bump in the road to immigration reform.
“This will lead to an appeal and we will get a lot more definition of what is enforceable and what is not,” he said. “State bill 1070 was intended to give local officers a little more authority in interdiction of these illegals making it this far into the state.”
Armer blamed the federal government for not taking a stance on
immigration reform sooner and its inability to secure the nation’s borders.
“The big pluses for 1070 was bringing attention to our broken borders,” he said. “Not only do we need to secure our borders, we need a workable guest workers program and a workable path to citizenship.”
Bolton mostly sided with the Obama administration’s case that illegal immigration enforcement must happen on the federal level, where laws are already in place.
“If Arizona were to enforce the portions of SB 1070 for which the court has found a likelihood of preemption, such enforcement would likely burden legal resident aliens and interfere with federal policy,” Bolton wrote.
“A preliminary injunction would allow the federal government to continue to pursue federal priorities, which is inherently in the public interest, until a final judgment is reached in this case.”
Bolton went on to say that she in no way “disregards Arizona’s interests in controlling illegal immigration and addressing the concurrent problems with crime including the trafficking of humans, drugs, guns and money.”
Payson Police Chief Don Engler would not comment on the politics of the ruling, but said implementing 1070 in Payson would not change things much.
Officers already turn illegal immigrants over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and since officers only occasionally encounter illegal immigrants, “it would not have affected us considerably.”
On Tuesday, half of the PPD was trained to implement 1070 with the other half scheduled to train Wednesday. With the judge’s ruling, Engler said training was on hold until further notice.
“We were prepared to enforce the law,” he said.
Officer training consisted of watching videos prepared by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board and reviewing written guidelines, which discussed how to determine if someone is an illegal immigrant independent of their race or ethnicity.
Through the course of an investigation, officers were instructed to look for “indicators,” including lack of identification, foreign identification, fleeing the scene, voluntary statements of nationality, overcrowded vehicles, hiding passengers, demeanor, dress and lack of the English language.
“In and of themselves, these do not determine someone’s status. Officers need to look at the totality of the circumstance,” Engler said.
Armer said nearly all county officers were trained along with detention officers, clerical and dispatch employees.
“We will continue with training until we are 100 percent compliant,” Armer said.
On Tuesday, a sheriff’s deputy detained 13 illegal immigrants during a routine traffic stop on Highway 87, south of Payson.
Every year, Armer estimates deputies detain between 300 to 400 illegal immigrants. The majority voluntarily admit their illegal status and are turned over to ICE.
Gov. Jan Brewer called Wednesday’s ruling a disappointment, but said she would file an expedited appeal at the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
“When I signed the bill on April 23rd, I said, SB 1070 — represents another tool for our state to use as we work to address a crisis we did not create and the federal government has actively refused to fix,” she said. “The law protects all of us, every Arizona citizen and everyone here in our state lawfully. And, it does so while ensuring that the constitutional rights of all in Arizona are undiminished — holding fast to the diversity that has made Arizona so great.”
Republican U.S. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl said they were deeply disappointed by Bolton’s ruling and disagreed that the law would “unduly burden the enforcement of federal immigration law.”
Republican Rep. Russell Pearce, a chief sponsor of the bill, said Bolton’s temporary injunction would ultimately be appealed.
Pearce pointed out that Bolton’s ruling leaves in place several key elements of the bill, including the establishment of a state crime for transporting or harboring an illegal immigrant, stopping in traffic to hire a day laborer and allowing Arizona residents to file suit against any agency, official, city or county for adopting policies restricting enforcement of federal immigration law.