TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Pima County's top lawman says he has no intention of enforcing Arizona's controversial crackdown on illegal immigration. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik calls SB 1070 "racist," "disgusting," and "unnecessary."
Speaking Tuesday morning with KGUN9's Steve Nunez, Dupnik made it clear that while he will not comply with the provisions of the new law, nor will he let illegal immigrants go free. "We're going to keep doing what we've been doing all along," Dupnik said. "We're going to stop and detain these people for the Border Patrol."
The sheriff acknowledged that this course of action could get him hauled into court. SB 1070 allows citizens to sue any law enforcement official who doesn't comply with the law. But Dupnik told Nunez that SB 1070 would force his deputies to adopt racial profiling as an enforcement tactic, which Dupnik says could also get him sued. "So we're kind of in a damned if we do, damned if we don't situation. It's just a stupid law."
Dupnik had harsh words for anyone who thinks SB 1070 will not lead to racial profiling. "If I tell my people to go out and look for A, B, and C, they're going to do it. They'll find some flimsy excuse like a tail light that's not working as a basis for a stop, which is a bunch of baloney."
But if Dupnik feels the law is stupid, its sponsor, State Senator Russell Pearce of Mesa, has the same label for Dupnik. In an e-mail exchange with KGUN9 News, Pearce characterized Dupnik's comments as "the stupidest statement... someone who takes an oath to enforce the law has ever made."
Pearce insisted that SB 1070 prohibits racial profiling. He repeated a phrase he's used in the past, writing, "Illegal is a not a race, it is a crime." And he added, "I guess the 9 Sheriffs who support this bill are racist."
SB 1070 criminalizes illegal immigration. But it will be up to county attorneys to prosecute complaints. That raises an obvious question: will Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall also refuse to comply with the law? If she joins Dupnik's rebellion, then SB 1070 would be effectively DOA in Pima County.
In answer to that question Tuesday afternoon, LaWall told KGUN9 News that it's too early to tell. LaWall said her position will depend on standards yet to be developed to determine what constitutes "reasonable suspicion" in asking someone for their papers.
SB 1070 is in fact silent on the issue of racial profiling in determining the circumstances under how and when police can stop someone and demand proof of citizenship. When she signed the immigration measure into law on Friday, Governor Jan Brewer also signed an executive order to go with the law. That order requires such standards to be drawn up and for local law enforcement officers to receive training on them. The executive order does not specify what those standards should be, and does not specifically address the issue of racial profiling. But in signing the bill and issuing the order, Brewer stated that she is determined to prevent racial discrimination.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Paul Senseman, spokesman for Governor Jan Brewer, sent KGUN9 this statement in response to a query about Dupnik's stance: "Since the new Arizona law simply regulates immigration the same way that federal law and federal authorities currently regulate, it seems misguided to be angry or react negatively about this bill. Racial profiling is specifically written in the state law to be illegal. No additional documents are needed for anyone in Arizona, other than what federal law currently requires."
The fact that the governor's office was able to get back to KGUN9 News on Tuesday with a response is remarkable, in light of the volume of calls that are pouring in. An office assistant told KGUN9 earlier Tuesday afternoon that over the past five days, the office has received 160,000 phone calls, and is having a hard time keeping up.
KGUN9 has also received very heavy viewer traffic on this issue, although not at that kind of level. E-mails and web postings continue to heavily favor implementation of the law. By viewer request, KGUN9.com is running another "Question of the Day" web poll on this issue. Viewers can find that poll on the KGUN9.com home page, about halfway down on the right, and may cast votes through midnight on Tuesday.