TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It is a controversial issue that could be up to Tucson voters to decide.
After seven months, the People’s Defense Initiative said it has more than an enough signatures to get a proposal on November’s ballot to make Tucson the state’s first designated sanctuary city.
“We’re trying to put some more confidence into our community," said Zaira Livier, the Executive Director of the People’s Defense Initiative and the chair of the “Tucson Families Free and Together” campaign.
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.”
According to the City of Tucson, initiative petitions require 9,241 valid signatures to be placed on the November general election ballot. Livier said she expects the group to turn in nearly double on Wednesday, July 3.
“We have families here in Tucson and across Arizona that are afraid to drive, leave their homes or call the police because of SB1070," said Livier.
Under Senate Bill 1070, police are required to ask about immigration status if a person is breaking a law and police suspect that person may be undocumented.
In an eight-page memo released by Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin in January, he stated the initiative conflicts with SB 1070 by restricting when officers are allowed to ask about immigration status.
In the memo, Rankin also wrote that passing this initiative raises the possibility the federal or state government, or both, could sue Tucson.
The campaign’s organizer said the initiative “squeezes” Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, but stands firm against any conflicts with the state law.
“If it wasn’t going to make a difference, they wouldn’t be fighting against it so much. It wouldn’t be, this is okay, but this is not," said Livier.
Tucson already identifies as an “Immigrant Welcoming City," but the PDI wants to take one step more with worries the general orders could one day disappear.
Livier said the initiative puts protection in place for racial profiling, direction for domestic violence and sexual assault, a faster process for new visas and more.
“We’re trying to build a Tucson of the future and a Tucson that’s equitable and just and provides safety to everyone, regardless of their economic status," said Livier.
If the required number of valid signatures is obtained by petition, the Mayor and Council must either adopt the initiative within 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.
If approved by voters, city police officers will be prevented 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.
KOLD News 13 reached out to Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin Tuesday. He declined an on-camera interview, but said everything he could say about the topic was written in the memo.
Rankin pointed out that the purpose of his memo wasn’t to take a stand for or against the initiative, but to make the Mayor and Council aware of some of the legal issues that could come up if this initiative makes it on the November ballot.
The People’s Defense Initiative plans to turn in the petition Wednesday at 11 a.m.
The group’s plan had the Pima County Republican Party organizing an effort Tuesday night to audit the signatures.
A Facebook post titled “URGENT MESSAGE FROM CHAIRMAN DAVID EPPIHIMER” read:
“If enough unqualified signatures are discovered, Pima GOP will challenge these petitions through every legal process available so that this misguided effort never reaches the ballot.”