- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Arizona Supreme Court will decide next month whether a petition brought by a citizens group seeking to end of a policy barring Phoenix police officers from enforcing federal immigration laws will ever go before voters.

Members of “Protect Our City” have called for an end to the policy, calling instead for it to be changed to require police officers, along with all other city employees, to assist federal officials in enforcing U.S. immigration law.

But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Janet Barton pulled the petition from the Nov. 7 ballot, saying in September that a city charter provision giving petition backers extra time to get the required signatures conflicted with state law.

Judge Barton said the petitioners were 600 signatures short of qualifying the initiative for the ballot.

The ruling was challenged, and the state Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on Jan. 11.

Randy Pullen, a Republican National Committeeman from Arizona and the “Protect Our City” organizer, told The Washington Times that as a “sanctuary city,” Phoenix was condoning illegal activity, adding that “when police come across an illegal alien, they need to be detained and reported.”

Phoenix is one of several cities in the United States listed as a so-called “sanctuary city,” meaning it does not enforce federal immigration laws. Its charter says the investigation and enforcement of immigration laws is the business of the Department of Homeland Security.

In Phoenix, police officers are not allowed to stop people to determine their immigration status, arrest people when the only violation is an infraction of federal immigration law or notify Homeland Security that an illegal alien witnessed or was the victim of a crime, surfaced during a family disturbance, received a traffic ticket or sought medical attention.

Mr. Pullen’s measure would have required all Phoenix officials, agencies and personnel to cooperate with and assist federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws within the city’s boundaries. In addition, it would have mandated that no Phoenix official, personnel or agent could be prohibited from sending, receiving or maintaining information regarding a person’s immigration status — lawful or unlawful — or exchanging that information with federal, state or local governments.

Phoenix Police Department officials have said their officers are not trained in immigration enforcement, although they have a “very strong working relationship” with immigration authorities. City Council members have balked at diverting funds from fighting crime to rounding up illegal aliens, and Mayor Phil Gordon said he did not intend to turn his police officers into immigration enforcers.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, vetoed legislation this year that would have empowered law-enforcement officers in the state to question the immigration status of anyone lawfully detained and made it a misdemeanor for illegal aliens to enter Arizona and a felony if they were apprehended twice.

To qualify for the Nov. 7 ballot, the petitioners needed 14,844 valid signatures. but fell short by 600 — although proponents cited in a lawsuit a city charter that allows an extra 10 days to turn in additional signatures if they came up short.

Judge Barton ruled that even though Phoenix voters had approved the so-called “second chance” charter provision in the 1970s, city laws could not conflict with state laws, which give residents only one shot to gather enough petition signatures.

Mr. Pullen, a key backer of Proposition 200, a statewide initiative passed in 2005 requiring verified identification for citizens to vote, had come up with the necessary signatures during the 10-day grace period. The petition was challenged by Hispanic leaders in the community who successfully filed a lawsuit to block it from being placed on the ballot.

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