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People's Defense Initiative holds meeting to challenge City Attorney's memo

Posted at 9:25 PM, Feb 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 08:04:20-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — The People's Defense Initiative held a meeting Tuesday night at the YWCA to further discuss their petition with the community to make Tucson the first sanctuary city.

The "Tucson Families Free and Together" petition would create a ballot initiative that could make Tucson a sanctuary city -- a nonlegal term describing cities, counties or even states where local law enforcement limit their cooperation with federal authorities' attempts to enforce immigration law.

The Director of People's Defense Initiative Zaira Livier said they held this meeting to clear up their initiative.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and folks aren’t exactly sure what it does exactly," Livier said. "This is really just a community conversation about what are initiative does and doesn’t do.”

A memoir leaked from City Attorney Mike Rankin was released on January 16th showing the legal opinion towards their bill to make this a sanctuary city. In the memo, Rankin said, "It is my opinion that several of the provisions included in the petition are in conflict with Arizona Law."

He goes on to say a lot of the petition conflicts with the "obligations imposed under SB 1070, and are contrary to the concept of reasonable suspicion under legal precedent."

SB 1070 prohibits officers from attempting to determine a subject's immigration status.

According to Livier, the People's Defense Initiative completely disagree with the memo.

"We disagree that we crossed into SB 1070 territory, because we wrote this bill specifically so that we would push next to the boundary without crossing it," Livier said. "We are confident that if we were to be sued that we would stand up to the test.”

Mike Piccarreta, a Tucson Lawyer, explains how a local and state law can conflict, but still work under the law.

"Many times when there is conflicts between state and local law... what the courts try to do is render them so that they can both coexist with each other," Piccarreta said.

He adds that the legal opinion from Rankin highlights only the legal opinion, but does not "analyze the political issues that lead to the need for the initiative."

The People's Defense Initiative has until July 5th to get at least 9,241signatures, but they said their goal is to get 21,000 signatures, so they can have a cushion in case their signatures are challenged.

Currently, the group has 3,000 signatures and counting.

If this initiative passes, they will be subject to legal challenges, but Piccarreta most initiatives do.

“With any initiative there are always subject to legal challenges and that’s why you have court," Piccarreta said. "One side brings it to court, other side makes there arguments and judges decides were current initiatives can exist in current law.”

For the People's Defense Initiative, they're not just asking for a sanctuary city.

“We’re asking for real policies, with teeth, that have to come back to the voters. To ever be changed again and that’s exactly what we’re doing," Livier said.

You can read more about the memo here, and What the People's Defense Initiative is doing here.