- Courtesy photo
Establishing Tucson as a sanctuary city will change none of that. And the specific terms called out in Prop. 205 will not make Tucson a safer community for anyone.
When I was asked to share my thoughts on this, I was reluctant. Not because I don't have firm convictions on the impacts of Prop. 205, but because I recognize how divisive Trump has caused immigration discussions to become. Since 2014, I've worked with Project Mariposa and Casa Alitas to assist nearly 20,000 migrants through our community. It was because of my intervention that we opened the Benedictine monastery to migrant families. Since January, we've served nearly 12,000 people at that site, and continue to do so at the Casa Alitas Welcome Center. My ward office continues to be a donation site for that work. I've had migrants sleeping in our community room when the monastery was overcrowded. Clearly, being opposed to Prop. 205 does not indicate my lack of support for immigrant guests in our community.
I have joined my colleagues on the Tucson City Council in supporting multiple resolutions in opposition to bad immigration policy. We've opposed SB1070, opposed the border wall, supported the Nogales City Council in opposing the use of concertina wire along the border fence, and have voted Tucson as officially an Immigrant Welcoming City. We have worked directly with the ACLU in crafting Police General Orders that already address how TPD interacts with immigrants. There are nine pages of those policies on our books. In 2019, TPD has turned over two people to ICE. Those policies are working in the manner hoped for by the city council, and by the ACLU. Prop. 205 does not advance that success at all.
My opposition to Prop. 205 is based on some very fundamental flaws in how the proposition is written. One is very simply that the section on allowing a civil cause of action is against state law. Prop. 205 allows any citizen to sue the city over alleged violations of the proposition. The suit comes in City Court, and it comes with the ability to award damages. While that may sound like a good way to ensure enforcement of 205, it's against the law. Court jurisdictions are very simply not established by voter initiative. They're a function of state law and the state constitution. We will be sued by the Legislature if Prop. 205 is adopted. Placing a clause like this in the initiative is a totally indefensible condition that is guaranteed to be defeated once we are sued.
Before I move onto other parts of Prop. 205 that are cause for concern, it's important for you to understand what's at stake when we're sued by the state. They have on the books what's called SB1487. While I believe that's an unconstitutional law, and in fact urged that we challenge it when the state killed our gun destruction ordinance, the Ducey-packed State Supreme Court upheld it. We risked nearly $135 million in our state-shared revenues in that case. The exact same thing will be true when we're sued over 205. The damages called out in 1487 build up day by day. For as long as it would take to overturn 205, we would potentially be suffering financial damages. The process for overturning an initiative is through the ballot box, not by a vote of the city council. Do the math. Just trying to undue 205 when we're sued could cost us millions.
Back to the proposition.
When TPD was investigating the Isabel Celis murder, we relied to a huge extent on the FBI. You remember that case. It took several years before the killer was captured. Prop. 205 requires us to force a federal agency to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that limits their law enforcement authority within city limits before we're allowed to carry on 'joint operations' with them. Not only would the FBI not sign such an MOU, I believe it would be irresponsible for us to request that of them. Do we really want to tell the FBI that if they help us with the Celis case, we don't want them acting within their full legal authority?
What other federal agencies would that requirement impact? Well, we conduct ballistics analysis testing in cooperation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms on a regular basis. Those analyses help TPD tie guns to bullets to crimes. The BATF is not going to sign that MOU. And I don't believe we are a safer community if we cancel the ballistics analysis work we do with them as a result of their not signing onto the Prop. 205-required memorandum.
We just recently teamed with the U.S. Marshals in capturing a serial rapist. The arrest took place in Kentucky. That agency also helped in the arrest of a guy who committed a double homicide DUI at Speedway and Wilmot. They caught him over in San Diego. The U.S. Marshals are not going to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that self-limits their legal authority within city limits. Asking them to do so does not make us a safer community.
Last year, TPD conducted yet another joint operation with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The result was a major spice bust, all happening within city limits. Spice has wreaked havoc on the lives of many of our most vulnerable citizens. The DEA would not sign an MOU to self-limit their arrest authority with Tucson city limits. Asking them to do so does not make us a safer community.
I could go on—we use the Secret Service every time presidential candidates visit our city during election season. They're not signing the MOU. We should not vote in favor of limiting TPD's ability to conduct joint operations with federal law enforcement agencies. Our police General Orders already properly outline protections for immigrants in our community. Tucson and our police department is not running rogue on the migrant community. Prop. 205 may be appropriate up in Arpaio country, but not here.
Another section of Prop. 205 that gives me great concern: It places immigration status above the ability of TPD to fully investigate and enforce certain crimes. The proposition only lists the Arizona Revised Statutes references, but isn't transparent in telling you which crimes are being placed above asking "status" questions. The crimes included in that list are domestic violence, aggravated domestic violence, sexual molestation of a minor, sexual molestation by a health care professional and other similarly noxious violations against people. Those Prop. 205 protections are specifically for "detainees" for those crimes. We do not ask status questions of victims or witnesses. That's already TPD's policy. But to force us to turn a blind eye when dealing with a victim of domestic violence or child molestation places the perpetrator in a power position over his victims. "Turn me in, and I'll get deported." Allowing that leverage to somebody who commits those sorts of crimes does not make us a community that's more welcoming to immigrants. Prop. 205 steps way over the line of propriety in placing this list of protected crimes in the initiative. And it doesn't even openly tell you what you're voting to exclude from "status questioning."
Some of the people who have worked hard to get Prop. 205 on the ballot have suffered significant trauma at the hands of CBP and their partner federal agencies. They are to be commended for wanting to make a strong statement on behalf of the fair and ethical treatment of migrants in our community. I've heard hundreds of similar stories of trauma from the migrant, asylum-seeking families we've seen come through the monastery. Nobody should discount the grief, psychological and in some cases the physical trauma inflicted on so many, simply based on who they are. Prop. 205 is therefore well-intentioned: Send a message. Flip off Trump. Make a statement. But if it had been in effect all year in Tucson, it would have maybe prevented two people from being turned over to ICE, and it would have prevented TPD from carrying out extremely important joint operations with multiple federal agencies. Those operations do make us a safer community. They need to be preserved.
I've been on the front lines of welcoming and offering help to thousands of migrants as they make their way into our community. I've seen the heart of Tucsonans as they volunteer their time and their resources in continuing that work. That's Tucson. Prop. 205 may be an appropriate message to send to D.C., Trump, or the majority in our state legislature, but not Tucson. We're already doing the stuff. Prop. 205 doesn't make us safer. That should guide your vote, not your dislike of Trump.
When you vote, don't simply do so based on the positive emotion sent by the title of the proposition. Tucson already stands for keeping our families safe and together. And we already stand for welcoming migrants. Let's keep leading by example, and not by casting a vote that may send a message that feels good, but a vote that will ultimately potentially hurt the very people it's intended to help.
Steve Kozachik is a Tucson City Council member.