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Phoenix Police Tighten Rules For Asking About Immigration Status

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Phoenix Police Department is considering a policy change to limit the situations in which officers can ask about a person’s immigration status during the course of an investigation.

The revised guidelines would prohibit officers from asking crime victims and witnesses about their immigration or citizenship status. It would also prevent school resource officers from contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while on school grounds, according to a draft version of the policy obtained by the The Arizona Republic.

The new policy would not change how officers deal with criminal suspects, however. Under Arizona state law, local police must verify a person’s immigration status with federal authorities before releasing him from custody.

A Phoenix City Council subcommittee recommended the changes in order to clarify the police department’s role in federal immigration enforcement efforts. The group was created in response to President Donald Trump’s January executive orders on border security and interior enforcement, which encouraged federal immigration authorities to form closer partnerships with local law enforcement.

The city council subcommittee promised to “address President Trump’s recent executive orders and the federal government’s subsequent actions that have created fear and uncertainty across the nation, including our city,” according to the Arizona Republic.

While the proposed changes haven’t yet been officially adopted, local civil rights groups applauded the move, saying that it would encourage more local residents to report crimes to police. Will Gaona, a policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said he was glad Phoenix police are considering the change, but that the new policy should be expanded to other types of police interactions with the public.

“The policy would be much stronger if they created that prohibition for all consensual contacts,” he told the Arizona Republic.

Some law enforcement groups say policy change is an example of a solution searching for a problem. Ken Crane, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said there are times when police have a legitimate need to ask witnesses or victims about their immigration status, and that special visas are available for people that are in the U.S. legally but are cooperating with investigators.

“It would appear this policy, these revisions, are being done to comport with some form of political correctness,” Crane said.

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