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PUENTE & ACLU pushing for more data about Phoenix PD Immigration procedures

Phoenix Police
Posted at 7:35 PM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 22:24:02-04

PHOENIX — Operations Order 4.48 is the immigration-related policy the Phoenix Police Department must follow when enforcing criminal and civil immigration violations.

Puente Human Rights Movement and ACLU of Arizona filed a public records request yesterday to the Phoenix Police Department because they say Phoenix police is failing to provide crucial data regarding their immigration enforcement procedures.

“Law enforcement has a responsibility to be transparent and accountable with the community it serves. Though Phoenix police is not under a court-mandated order and are not legally forced to disclose 4.48 data, we believe it shouldn’t take a Public Record Request to see how their officers are enforcing 4.48,” stated ACLU of AZ.

Operations Order 4.48 was created by Phoenix police in 2010 after the passing of Senate Bill 1070.

SB 1070 allows a police officer to question someone’s immigration status only if there’s a reasonable suspicion that the person is undocumented.

According to the ACLU website:

“Section 2(B) of SB 1070 requires Arizona law enforcement officers to determine (or attempt to determine) a person’s immigration status only in two limited circumstances: (1) when the officer arrests a person for a state law crime (like DUI), or (2) when the officer detains a person on suspicion of a state law crime and the officer, during the course of the stop, develops reasonable suspicion that the person “is an alien . . . unlawfully present in the United States.”

Every city has its own policies, here in Phoenix, the Operations Order is Phoenix police’s own guidance which includes the following:

  • Officers are prohibited from asking victims or witnesses of a crime about their immigration status and holding a person longer than it takes to address the purpose of a traffic stop.

The courts have ruled that an officer cannot prolong a stop to conduct an immigration check, for example, if an officer took 20 minutes to issue a traffic citation, they cannot wait more than that for a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer to show up.
Also, under this policy, officers must have supervisor approval before contacting ICE. After all that, officers must fill out a form with basic information such as: the reason for an immigration check, the purpose of initial contact, the race and ethnicity of the person they stopped and the outcome of the traffic stop.

But in 2017 another requirement was added.

“That the department has to track and collect data of immigration-related activities by its ranking file patrol officers within the City of Phoenix, today we haven’t received any of this information,” said Christine Wee, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Arizona.

Wee says even though the Phoenix Police Department is required to collect the data, they have never made it available to the public, at least not voluntarily.

ABC15 reached out to the Phoenix Police Department, a spokesperson in an email said, “The Phoenix Police Department does collect the information referenced and it will make it available through a public records request.”

ACLU and PUENTE say it’s about transparency.

“The public is entitled to know what’s going on and these are just facts. This is objective data that we need, so we can make sure that they’re doing what they can to show us commitment, that they’re serious about ending racial profiling and racial injustice in the city,” said Wee.

PUENTE was able to get a hold of some of the data in 2020 through council member Carlos Garcia.

“It’s showing that 95% of the people that they’re contacting ICE for are U.S. Citizens or lawful residents, less than 3% are folks who were undocumented,” said Sandra Castro, the organizing director at PUENTE.

Castro says the data they received from Phoenix police in 2020 was missing a lot of immigration-related information.

ACLU and PUENTE say there’s an increasing number of complaints from the community against Phoenix police claiming the officers are calling ICE during regular traffic stops.

“ICE just took your husband”

“My brother called me and said, ‘I'm so sorry sister but I have to tell you... ICE just took your husband,'” said Ivonne Nuñez.

Nuñez is a U.S Citizen, her husband is undocumented. He was sent to an immigration detention center after a traffic stop in Phoenix in January 2020.

“I said, ‘no please, don’t tell me that, please don’t tell me that’.”

Carlos Nuñez, Ivonne’s husband, was on his way to work when he was pulled over in January 2020. He was driving without an Arizona driver’s license but provided his Mexican passport as identification.

“The officer told me, ‘It’s okay, don’t worry; nothing is going to happen,’ but 45 min later, ICE arrived, they put me in their truck without telling me anything,” said Carlos Nuñez.

So, what can an officer do and not do? If someone doesn't have a driver’s license, would that be a reasonable suspicion to call ICE?

“Absolutely not, absolutely not,” said Christine Wee, an attorney with the ACLU of Arizona.

Wee says not having a state I.D. or just a foreign passport on their own is not enough to support a reasonable suspicion to inquire about one’s immigration status. The ACLU highlights unauthorized presence in the U.S. is not a crime and doesn’t by itself mean that someone has committed or will commit a crime.

Still, Sheree Wright, an immigration lawyer in Phoenix says, 70% of her clients come in because of traffic stop violations.

“It happens every single day, a new client comes in with the same traffic violation issues every single day,” stated Wright.

The traffic stop caused Nuñez to end up at La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy for two months.

“I remember my girl kept crying and just asking me, ‘is daddy going to be, okay?’ What do you say to that?” said Ivonne Nuñez.

The family is now facing a new challenge, a new letter from ICE.

“It's asking me to turn my husband in, they call him an alien. If I don't do this, they will put a warrant for his arrest, and it says reason removal.”

Removal means deportation which for Nuñez means losing her children's father and the only provider in the family.

“My niece also lives with us, her son has autism, my brother has down syndrome, my mom has a heart condition, she has diabetes, she also has nephrostomy tubes.”

Nuñez says she had to stop working to care for her mother.

“So, if he wasn’t here, how are we going to be able to be, okay?”

Immigration lawyers say they’re not alone. According to Wright, most of her clients have been turned to ICE after minor traffic violations.

“Maybe a taillight that’s broken or not fully stopping at a stop sign. Now if it was someone of a different race, I'm sure a lot of police officers will probably overlook that,” stated Wright.

As far as Nuñez, her last message is to the Phoenix police officer who reported her husband.

“If he didn’t have to, why did he do it? I wish he would have thought about what he was going to do to the family.”

She says her husband will show up to his immigration appointment for removal with his lawyer next month. For now, the family will continue gathering at the dinner table, to sing and pray. Precious moments that they say no immigration law can take away.

You can find information about your rights if a police officer questions you about your immigration status during a traffic stop here.