Arizona Officials Dispute Racial Profiling Charges

The legislator who wrote Arizona’s tough new immigration enforcement law, as well as a growing number of law enforcement officials, say the legislation can be fairly implemented without racial profiling or discrimination.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Russell K. Pearce (R-District 18), said that deportation, not profiling, is the laws opponents’ main concern.

“They are worried about the laws being enforced,” Pearce said.

America’s toughest sheriff, Maricopa County’s Joe Arpaio, said the law was necessary because the federal government has failed in its mandate to enforce immigration statutes and secure the border.

“We know how to enforce immigration laws without racial profiling,” Arpaio said. “They won’t be grabbing people off of street corners.”

He rejected critic’s claims that the new law drains resources from law enforcement agencies, calling it an excuse “critics and politicians use because they don’t like us enforcing illegal immigration laws.”

Arpaio, the target of a year-long Justice Department investigation that has yet to uncover any wrongdoing for his aggressive immigration-enforcement policies, said he hopes the uproar over the new law will prod Washington to “get something done.” He said that if Arizona’s law forces the White House and Congress to take some action, the effort will have been worthwhile—and will have the added benefit of opening more jobs for citizens and legal residents.


Arpaio said he considers the law another tool for the state’s law enforcement officers who deal with violent criminals, immigrants and smugglers daily. He said under the new law officers will ask for an ID or driver’s license, and the persons’ date and place of birth. He said having no driver’s license or ID, or an admission of being in the country illegally, is reasonable suspicion to detain a suspect.

“If we show they’re illegal, we can actually arrest them and put them in our jails,” Arpaio said. “I think they are afraid that other states will follow this new law that’s now been passed.”

Pearce, Arpaio and a number of other state officials believe the absence of federal action to address the rising level of crime and violence across the porous Mexican border forced the state to act.

Gov. Jan Brewer said Monday that Arizona waited 15 years for federal action before “stepping up.”

Pinal County Sheriff Paul R. Babeu said the goal of every peace officer charged to uphold the laws of the state is “to serve honorably” as they wield the “awesome authority entrusted” to them.

Babeu said enforcing the law, SB 1070, is no different for law enforcement officers than the duties they perform every day. He said officer training includes high standards of moral conduct regarding constitutional rights, Fourth Amendment search and seizure, and the rules of investigation leading up to probable cause for arrest.

“I have full faith and confidence in every one of my deputies that we can do this. We will not tolerate racial profiling,” Babeu said. Any deputy or police officer found to have violated the rules “will be held fully accountable … including termination.”

Babeu said that Pinal County, a rural area between Tucson and Phoenix, has become a funnel for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants where smugglers of humans and drugs are armed and utilizing increasingly sophisticated communications and methods to avoid law enforcement. He said that over a 30-day period there were 64 high-speed pursuits involving smugglers, with several multiple fatality crashes, making it “increasingly risky” for the state’s law enforcement officials and residents.

Kearny Police Chief Joe Martinez called critics’ concerns unfounded, saying the Arizona law enforcement community includes a large number of Hispanics.

“We’ve never had a policy of racial profiling,” Martinez said at a town hall meeting for Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.). “In fact, quite the contrary, it’s been outlawed. I’m one Hispanic who is more in love with my country than the color of my skin.”

Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board Director Lyle Mann said officials are reviewing the governor’s executive order and will do “all it needs to do” to meet the governor’s demands.

“Anytime there’s a new law, we have to start thinking about what we’re going to do,” Mann said. “This is a training issue and we do what we have to do to facilitate training of police officers. We’ll do what has to be done.”

The AZPOST board of directors includes the Arizona attorney general, the directors of the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Arizona Department of Corrections, several county sheriffs and local police departments. Gov. Jan Brewer also requested the board make recommendations on possible improvements to SB 1070 before the end of the year. At present, the law gives Arizona law enforcement agencies authority to enforce the federal law that already applies to everyone in Arizona.

Neville Cramer, retired special agent in the Department of Justice’s Immigration and Naturalization Service, said he supports the law and believes Arizona has sent a strong message to Washington.

“Training is going to make or break this law,” said Cramer, “It’s a great bill and will serve a purpose.”

Cramer said that for the bill to be a success, three criteria must be met. Officers need to be taught about different nationalities, he said. Training about different immigration documents is required, and officers will receive training on how to avoid racial profiling.”

Bryan Soller, president of Fraternal Order of Police’s Mesa Lodge No. 9, said the law is “not going to change the way we do business and officers have discretion in enforcing it.”

“I don’t see us running amok with the law,” Soller said. “We’ll make it work.”

Cartoon courtesy of Brett Noel