City of Phoenix Talks Immigration Enforcement in Schools

By Editor March 20, 2017 18:15

City of Phoenix Talks Immigration Enforcement in Schools

By Ellen O’Brien

An ad hoc subcommittee of the Phoenix City Council met Friday morning to discuss possible responses by the City to President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and refugees.

The committee addressed concerns regarding Phoenix Police Operations Order 4.48 – which deals with how Phoenix Police should deal with federal immigration enforcement – implementation in Phoenix schools.

See Full 4.48 Text

Alejandra Gomez, the director of the Arizona Center for Empowerment, said that she’s seen a lot of concern in the community since Trump issued orders to fully prosecute and deport all undocumented immigrants.

“Every day we’re getting calls from our families,” she said. “Educators are calling us.”

 Police in Schools

The Phoenix school resource officer (SRO) program places police officers in uniform on school campuses as liaisons and law enforcement educators. By state law, all police officers, including SROs, are required to contact the U.S.  when an arrest is made that involves possible immigration issues.

SROs are currently in 85 schools across 18 Arizona school districts. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams confirmed that current policy doesn’t distinguish between juveniles and adults with regards to contacting ICE.

Students that spoke to the committee expressed their concerns. “We don’t feel safe with SROs on campus,” Jose Sanchez, a senior at North High School in Phoenix, told the Committee. “City police should not be serving as immigration agents.”

The committee asked Williams to work on a policy change that specifically prevents SROs from asking about immigration status, and on replacing officers in uniform with plain clothes officers or civilians. However, “I don’t think taking SROs out of schools makes our schools safer or our city safer,” Councilman Daniel Valenzuela cautioned.

Dr. Chad Gestson, the superintendent of Phoenix Union High School District, emphasized that schools should be a safe environment for students. “It is not the intent of our SRO program to become immigration enforcement, nor is that our task,” he said. “Our job is to create a loving, welcoming environment for all our students.”

A Balance Between Compliant and Complicit

Several members of the public expressed disappointment with the level of discussion about Police Operation Order 4.48.

“It’s really disappointing to continue going around this question,” said Carlos Garcia of the Puente Human Rights Movement at the committee meeting. “I think it’s important that we talk about… what’s wrong with the policy.”

“This policy, along with the new administration, is catastrophic for our communities,” said Garcia.

While Order 4.48 cautions against bias based policing and racial profiling, it also lists dress, significant difficulty speaking English, and a vehicle that is overcrowded or heavy as factors that can create ‘reasonable suspicion’ of undocumented immigration status. If a police officer develops ‘reasonable suspicion’ in any interaction, even a conversation, it can be cause for further questioning.

“This policy, along with the new administration, is catastrophic for our communities,” said Garcia.

The committee agreed that Order 4.48 should be discussed in more detail and added it to the agenda for the next meeting. “We need a lot of clarity on 4.48,” Vice Mayor Laura Pastor said.

The next meeting of the meeting of the Response to Trump Executive Orders Ad Hoc Subcommittee of the Phoenix City Council will be held on April 4.

By Editor March 20, 2017 18:15

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