Tucson Moves Closer to Becoming a Sanctuary City
By Colton R. Overcash | July 2019
The open-borders lobby in southern Arizona has succeeded in its efforts to place a sanctuary initiative on the November ballot in Tucson. If the voters approve it, then Tucson will officially become Arizona’s first openly-declared sanctuary city despite the state outlawing sanctuary policies in 2010.
The People’s Defense Initiative (PDI), which is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has been collecting signatures since December 8, 2018 to put the so-called “Tucson Families Free and Together,” initiative on the ballot in the upcoming election.
On July 3, the PDI announced on social media that it had submitted 18,155 signatures to the city clerk’s office, which is almost double the 9,241 signatures required to place an initiative on the ballot. The Pima County Recorders’ Office later qualified the initiative to be placed on the ballot when it certified about 12,488 of the total signatures collected by the group came from eligible voters.
Opponents of the initiative have already challenged whether the initiative qualified for the ballot. Several Tucson residents, with the support of the Pima County Republican Party, filed suit on July 12, claiming that the number of signatures required by the city was too low. The complaint says state law actually requires 12,821 valid signatures instead of the current threshold, which is 9,241. Because the number of certified signatures stands at 12,488, the residents argue that the initiative failed to collect the minimum number of signatures required by state law and is invalid.
The initiative undermines the enforcement of federal immigration law. If it’s approved by voters in November, then law enforcement officials in Tucson will be prohibited from performing several essential law enforcement functions, including, but not limited to, honoring immigration detainers, assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with any immigration enforcement activity, or inquiring into a person’s immigration status except for specific reasons allowed by the new proposal.
For example, the initiative allows for law enforcement officers to inquire into a person’s immigration status only if he or she can “articulate two distinct factors leading to a reasonable suspicion.” However, those factors cannot be “arbitrary and capricious” and specifically may not include things like failure to produce identification or proximity to other illegal aliens. It’s not clear what factors actually would be allowed. If a police officer is found to have violated the initiative once it goes into effect, then illegal aliens will have the ability to file a civil suit against the officers or the police department and collect damages.
The initiative’s proponents say their aim is to make Tucson “safer” for illegal aliens. According to Zaira Livier, the Executive Director of the PDI, “[w]e’re trying to build a Tucson of the future and a Tucson that’s equitable and just and provides safety to everyone[.]”
However, according to City Attorney Mike Rankin, the initiative will make Tucson “vulnerable” to legal challenges and could potentially cost the city millions in state funding. In an eight-page memo, Rankin outlined every state law the initiative could potentially violate. In particular, Rankin cites Section 41-194.0 of the Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.), which mandates that the state attorney general investigate whether any local ordinance violates state law. If a local government is found to have violated state law, then the attorney general is required to file a special lawsuit that goes immediately to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Under the same statute, the attorney general is required to notify the state treasurer to withhold state funds from non-compliant jurisdictions and make them ineligible for future funds until their violations are resolved, regardless of whether the violations are still being litigated in court. The attorney general is also required to levy fines and penalties against violators until they comply with state law.
In addition to City Attorney Rankin, the initiative is also opposed by Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus who believes the initiative will make the “entire community, including our undocumented residents, far less safe.” It also faces backlash from the Pima County Republican Chairman David Eppihimer. He said, “The GOP believes in following the constitution, whether it’s the U.S. Constitution or Arizona’s. Moreover, state law should always supersede local law. We don’t buy the argument that because Tucson is a charter city it can do what it wants.”