With Immigration reform and other related issues being talked about at length by columnists, advocates, and politicians, the idea of reforming a particular law has come back into the spotlight here in Tucson.
Currently, the law known as SB 1070 allows for Tucson police to request immigration documents for victims of criminal offenses. This is also true for any witnesses that are associated with the incident. While local law enforcement officers are within the parameter of the law when requesting immigration papers from individuals, this practice brings with it a wide variety of issues and concerns.
Those who oppose this law argue that immigrants are less likely to report crimes and other offenses if they are concerned about being identified as an undocumented immigrant living in Tucson. Many find that the law is just another way for officers and other law enforcement to seek out undocumented immigrants living in Arizona illegally. Furthermore, the law leads to obvious concerns related to racial profiling.
This law seems to go against basic public policy. Meaning, how can law enforcement claim that they are working towards keeping Tucson safe for its citizens if they allow for negative repercussions for those that are doing their so-called “civic duty” by reporting criminal activity? If law enforcement in Tucson was truly concerned, first and foremost, for the safety and security of those that live and work in Tucson and its surrounding areas, why would this law be enforced or even on the books?
It is reasonable to assume that immigrants are less likely to report criminal offenses because of SB 1070 and studies have proved it - but what does that mean for all citizens living in Tucson and other parts of Arizona? Actually, lawmakers are meeting this week to discuss possible reforms or practices that will work towards a more acceptable SB 1070 policy.
In fact, the police chief in Tucson has come up with a list of ways to stay within the confines of the law while working to protect the rights of individuals and to promote a safer community. First, discontinue the practice of asking victims and witnesses of crimes about their legal status. This has already been instituted in other Arizona cities and has led to positive feedback.
Another idea is to prohibit law enforcement from questioning juveniles suspected of criminal activity about their legal status until an attorney, parent, or guardian is present. Juveniles tend to admit to crimes they did not commit and are less likely to carry identification or fully understand their legal rights or options.
Lastly, there is much talk about creating more community outreach programs that will work towards educating Tucson and surrounding areas about the law and what it does and does not allow. Arguably, the more education available to citizens, the more people's rights are protected.
There is also a business side to this argument: the 40% Latino or Latina population in Tucson and the high number of Mexican tourists account for a high amount of spending in the city and the rest of the state. In order to promote Tucson and the rest of Arizona as a welcoming place to live and visit, we need to get this law under control and start focusing on public safety rather than immigration papers.