Sunday, May 28, 2006

A citizens group is seeking the end of a policy that prevents Phoenix police officers from detaining suspected illegal aliens, questioning a person under arrest about immigration status or notifying federal authorities that an illegal alien is in custody.

Members of Protect Our City have started a petition drive to change the city’s charter to require that police officers, along with all other city agencies and employees, assist federal authorities in enforcing U.S. immigration law.

Randy Pullen, a Republican National Committeeman from Arizona and the project’s leader, told The Washington Times that he hopes to gather enough signatures to qualify the measure as an initiative on the city’s November ballot.

“As a sanctuary city, Phoenix is condoning illegal activity, and we need to put an end to that now,” said Mr. Pullen, a key proponent of Proposition 200, an Arizona initiative passed in 2004 that limits public services for illegal aliens. “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 require 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 mandate 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.

To qualify for the November ballot in Phoenix, he said, 14,844 valid signatures need to be collected and submitted to the city clerk by the first week of June.

Phoenix Police Department officials have said their officers are not trained in immigration enforcement, although the officers do have a “very strong working relationship” with immigration authorities.

City Council members say they should not have to divert funds from fighting crime to rounding up illegal aliens. Mayor Phil Gordon recently told reporters he did not intend to turn the city’s police officers into immigration enforcers.

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

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