The immigration policy changes announced by President Barack Obama will go into effect over the course of the next year. However, it remains unclear to what extent those changes will impact Arizona and the Tucson area. State law SB 1070 may stand at odds with the new executive action on deportation priorities. The new immigration priorities focus on criminals and national threats, while SB 1070 requires police to question the immigration status of all those they suspect to be in the country illegally.
At least one councilman thinks the local government should realign their policies to reflect the recent executive action changes. Tucson Councilman Steve Kozachik has called for changes to Tucson policies given the change in federal immigration priorities. The White House administration has provided a memo to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to put their resources towards higher immigration priorities, including recent border crossers. Apprehension, detention and removal also prioritizes suspected terrorists, gang members, felons, multiple offenders, and those convicted of more serious misdemeanors.
According to Kozachik, if ICE is not interested in taking custody of low priority immigrants, then local police “shouldn't be calling, and the general orders should be changed to reflect that.” Meanwhile, those individuals who fall within the low priority category are unsure what the policy changes may mean for them. For one undocumented immigrant seeking sanctuary in a Tucson church, the future does not look any clearer after the president's announcements.
Rosa Robles Loreto, who has been living in the Southside Presbyterian Church for five months will not qualify for deferred action because she came to the U.S. as an adult, and both of her young children were born in Mexico. Her sons, as childhood arrivals, now fall within the newly expanded DACA coverage, and will be eligible for deferred status. In the meantime, she will remain in sanctuary until she receives some assurance she will not be deported and separated from her family.
If Arizona or Tucson policies are shifted away from SB 1070, that may resolve the dispute keeping police officers out of local schools. Tucson Unified School District stands at odds with the local Chief of Police and City Attorney over the issue. The school district is concerned that police would ask students about their immigration status, which may keep kids from attending school if they or their parents had to worry they might be detained or deported. The police department maintains that the state law requires them to investigate immigration status, and for now, the two sides are in a stalemate.
However, Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute at NYU Law School doubts that the federal government is going to chime in on local and state directives. Instead, Shishti suggests “the local police will have to follow their own guidelines.” However, an immigration law professor at the University of Arizona, Andy Silverman, has argued that “1070 has been weakened in many ways, particularly by the courts. Now, with both the executive order and the priorities set by the administration, it has really weakened it further.”