Ariz. braces for immigration law
Protests planned when statute takes effect tomorrow
PHOENIX — The sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county is making room in a vast outdoor jail and determined to round up illegal immigrants to fill it. Police from the US-Mexico border to the Grand Canyon are getting last-minute training. And protests and marches are planned throughout Phoenix.
Arizona’s new immigration law takes effect tomorrow, creating a potentially volatile mix of police, illegal immigrants, and thousands of activists, many planning to show up without identification as a show of solidarity.
At least one group plans to block access to federal offices, daring officers to ask them their immigration status.
“Our message for that day is: ‘Don’t comply, don’t buy,’ ’’ said activist Liz Hourican, whose group, CodePink, plans to block the driveway for immigration offices in downtown Phoenix.
As both sides prepare, a federal judge is deciding whether to step in and block the law. It requires officers enforcing other laws to check a person’s immigration status if they suspect the person is in the country illegally. It also bans illegal immigrants from soliciting work in a public place.
Police across the state scrambled yesterday to train officers, including on how to avoid racial profiling and plan for a potential influx of detainees.
The hardest-line approach is expected in the Phoenix area, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is set for his 17th crime and immigration sweep. He plans to hold the sweep, regardless of any ruling by US District Judge Susan Bolton.
Arpaio, known for his tough stance against illegal immigration, expects to send about 200 deputies and volunteers out, looking for traffic violators, people wanted on criminal warrants, and others. He has used that tactic before to arrest dozens of people, many of them illegal immigrants.
“We don’t wait. We just do it,’’ he said. “If there’s a new law out, we’re going to enforce it.’’
He said the space he made in the complex of military surplus tents can handle 100 people. He will find room for more if necessary, he said.
Elsewhere in the state, police officials said they did not expect any dramatic events. They were busy wrapping up training sessions, with some agencies saying that untrained officers will not be allowed on the streets.
Many of the state’s 15,000 police officers have been watching a DVD released this month that offers indications a person might be an illegal immigrant, such as speaking poor English, looking nervous, or traveling in an overcrowded vehicle. It warned that race and ethnicity are not indicators.
Some agencies added extra materials, including a test, a role-playing exercise, or a question-and-answer session with prosecutors.
Critics of the law among police chiefs remain, saying that the law is so vague that no amount of training could eliminate potential confusion.
“Am I going to sit here and say I think every officer has a clear understanding of the law when they leave the training?’’ said Roberto Villasenor, Tucson’s police chief. “No, because I think the law is poorly constructed.’’
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment on preparations or the role federal authorities would play in enforcing the law, except to say ICE “focuses first on criminal aliens who pose a threat to our communities.’’