Deadline on probe of Phoenix police immigration policy looms

Posted at 6:37 AM, Oct 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-16 15:59:44-04

The Arizona attorney general was expected to decide Monday whether the Phoenix Police Department violated a state law that requires officers to inquire about the legal status of people they suspect of being illegally in the country.

Republican Sen. John Kavanagh complained last month that a new police policy illegally restricts when officers can make those inquiries and violates Arizona's 2010 law known as SB1070.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich faces the deadline under a 2016 law that allows a single lawmaker to trigger an investigation by the state's top law enforcement officer when they suspect a city, town or county is violating state law. The law gives the attorney general 30 days to finish the probe.

Kavanagh said in his complaint that the policy changes adopted by the department in July illegally restrict when officers can inquire about a person's immigration status. In addition, he said a new procedure requiring a specialized supervisor to vet the request puts roadblocks in the process to check with federal immigration officials.

He also said a ban on officers inquiring about immigration status while on school grounds makes schools "sanctuary islands."

A lawyer for Phoenix said in a written response last week that the policy is legal and is urging Brnovich to reject the complaint.

Attorney Jean-Jacques Cabou wrote that Kavanagh's complaint should be tossed because the 2016 law only allows challenges to ordinances or regulations adopted by a city's governing body, and the policy was adopted by the police chief. If Brnovich decides he can investigate, Cabou said the policy properly enforces SB1070 by setting up detailed rules on when and how to make immigration inquiries while ensuring that officers don't violate constitutional protections.

Arizona has been at the center of the national debate over illegal immigration for a decade, and Kavanagh's complaint came as immigration issues are again at the forefront nationally.

If the attorney general determines the policy conflicts with state law, the city will have 30 days to eliminate it or face loss of state tax revenues.