Phoenix police may get in touch with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency when they suspect a person to be in the U.S. illegally, a shift in policy that is expected to increase the number of illegal immigrants deported from the state, reports the Arizona Republic. Chief Jack Harris announced changes yesterday to the police policy on immigration that had prevented officers in most cases from asking about a person’s citizenship status.
The policy has been a lightning rod for criticism from residents who want to see Phoenix do more to combat illegal immigration, and helped foment a recall effort against Mayor Phil Gordon. Under the new policy, everyone arrested will be questioned about his or her citizenship. If an officer makes contact with someone who did not commit a crime but is still believed to be in the country illegally, the officer can give ICE that person’s contact information over the phone or via a one-page form. The new policy drew praise from the police union that had bitterly opposed the draft of the changes unveiled in February. Immigrant advocates were less impressed. Said Phoenix attorney Antonio Bustamante: “When a mother goes out and happens to be pulled over, she’s going to be referred to ICE. Or a father coming home from work is not going to return to his family that night.”