TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The push to make Tucson the state’s first sanctuary city is officially underway.
The People’s Defense Initiative held a kick-off event for the “Tucson Families Free and Together” campaign Saturday.
“We’ll take it to Tucson and Tucson will decide,” said Zaira Livier, director of the People’s Defense Initiative.
Livier is the force behind the effort to make the streets of the Old Pueblo a safe refuge. The City of Tucson already identifies as an “Immigrant Welcoming City," but the People’s Defense Initiative wants to take one step more.
While the term 'sanctuary city’ has a broad definition, according to the Center for Immigration Studies:
“Sanctuary jurisdictions have laws, ordinances, regulations, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE —either by refusing to or prohibiting agencies from complying with ICE detainers, denying ICE access to incarcerated aliens, or otherwise obstructing communications between local and federal immigration officers.”
“We think the time is now to stand up and to say that we are not going to be complacent, we are not going to help in the tearing apart of families, of our neighbors, of our friends of our families here in Tucson," said Livier.
The initiative would prohibit city police officers from detaining people on the basis of immigration status. It would also keep officers from assisting in the enforcement of federal immigration laws, except in circumstances expressly required by law.
“We see law enforcement coming into contact with undocumented persons for small, civil infractions in the road and then ending up in detention, ending up in deportation proceedings," Livier said. “It happens much less now, but it still happens. We see it, we hear it, it’s heartbreaking. And even if we were to be halting one deportation a month, we think it’s absolutely worth it.”
Livier applauded the progress that has already been made by city officials and the Tucson Police Department with internal procedures for undocumented immigrants.
A statement from the Tucson Police Department, posted online back in 2014, regarding immigrants in the community reads:
“The Tucson Police Department is committed to the safety and welfare of all persons within the City of Tucson.”
Livier submitted the application to the City Clerk for the initiative petition on December 4, 2018.
According to the City of Tucson, initiative petitions require 9,241 valid signatures to be placed on the November 5, 2019 general election ballot.
If the required number of signatures is obtained by petition, the Mayor and Council must either adopt the initiative within twenty (20) days after the date of certifying the petition for sufficiency, or call an election at which time the initiative is submitted to the voters.
Tucson News Now reached out to local political parties for their take on the initiative.
“We have not prepared a statement. However, we discussed it at our 2019 kickoff retreat and were unanimous in our opposition. In order to keep cities safe, they must cooperate with federal and state authorities in combating illegal immigration.”
- Pima County Republican Party Chairman David Eppihimer
Emails to the Pima County Democratic Party were not returned as of Saturday evening.
As of October of last year, there are seven sanctuary states: California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusettes, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont.
The largest sanctuary cities are New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, according to the Centers for Immigration Studies.