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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Law enforcement worries about costs of Ariz. immigration bill

    PHOENIX – A week after millions of immigrants demonstrated against federal immigration legislation, the Arizona Legislature sent a bill to Gov. Janet Napolitano that would give local law enforcement the authority to arrest illegal immigrants for trespassing.

    The bill, SB 1157, has been universally decried by local law enforcement, who have voiced strong objections to the legislation. Their objections ranged from concerns about its constitutionality, adequate funding, racial profiling, protection from lawsuits and room for additional prisoners in correctional facilities.

    Napolitano refused Wednesday to speculate whether she would sign the bill into law, although she hinted at a veto, saying she would “”listen very closely to where law enforcement is (on the issue).””

    Later that day, Napolitano’s office released more than a dozen letters from local law enforcement agencies urging her to veto the legislation. She received letters from the county sheriffs in Yuma, Pinal, Pima and Santa Cruz counties.

    Letters urging Napolitano also came from the mayors of San Luis and Nogales, Arizona, and the chiefs of police for both Phoenix and Avondale.

    Several of the letters to Napolitano contained identical language, including a reference to the legislative intent of the bill and the failure of the federal government to enforce immigration policies.

    “”Although it appears to be a good faith attempt by the legislature to curb this problem, I cannot support unnecessarily exposing my officers to danger while the federal government fails to appropriately address this issue,”” said Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.

    That line was repeated in letters to Napolitano submitted by the Arizona Police Association, the Santa Cruz County sheriff and the Yuma County sheriff.

    Republicans in favor of the legislation have consistently said local law enforcement were in favor of the bill.

    Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, who wrote the legislation, said her intention was to give local law enforcement the authority to arrest illegal immigrants for trespassing.

    Once arrested for trespassing, Leff said, the illegal immigrants would be turned over to federal agencies like Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    “”All too often we hear that law enforcement cannot enforce federal law, so nothing is done. Under this proposal, local law enforcement will not be enforcing federal law, they will be enforcing Arizona’s law,”” Leff said.

    The bill would make the crime a misdemeanor on the first offense, although repeated offenses would be a felony and subject to a one-year prison term.

    Leff has often cited the support of Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, who helped her write the legislation.

    But Dever wants nothing to do with the current form of the legislation, saying that the bill is “”toothless”” because it makes the first offense a misdemeanor. He also criticized a decision to put funding for SB 1157 in another bill.

    Dupnik also said he had concerns about funding.

    “”We believe that SB 1157, and any other legislation related to trespass, exposes law enforcement officers to greater hazards, unnecessarily drains resources and expands local law enforcement duties into unfamiliar areas,”” Dupnik said. “”This is a recipe for disaster.””

    Tony Estrada, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff, said his letter to Napolitano urges her to veto the legislation that SB 1157 would be impossible to enforce in a county where thousands of legal immigrants cross his border with Mexico every month.

    Estrada said the prison in Santa Cruz County is already inadequate, housing up to 130 inmates in a facility built for 52.

    “”We do not have the manpower or the facilities to accommodate SB 1157,”” Estrada said.

    Ogden echoed concerns about whether the jail in Yuma County could handle an influx of illegal immigrants detained under SB 1157.

    Even if the state Legislature comes through with the necessary funding associated with the additional costs of SB 1157, Ogden said it would take two years to construct an additional prison facility.

    Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said he has authored a bill that would give local law

    enforcement $30 million to enforce SB 1157 and said the general fund budget for next year will contain an additional $20 million for law enforcement in border counties.

    Ogden said with each prisoner costing the county $80 a day, the influx of illegal immigrants lining his prison walls would be costly.

    “”$30 million wouldn’t go very far,”” said Ogden. “”These meaningless misdemeanor arrests and detentions under SB 1157 and any other trespass bill will only act to create additional hazards for law enforcement.””

    Ogden also pleaded for the governor to veto legislation, saying it was a federal issue.

    “”Although it appears to be a good faith attempt by the legislature to curb this problem, I cannot support unnecessarily exposing my officers to danger while the federal government fails to appropriately address this issue,”” said Ogden in his letter to Napolitano.

    “”SB 1157 is a recipe for disaster – for both the officer on the street and the officer in the jail that will incarcerate the trespassers,”” Ogden continued.

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