This Presidents Day, the pro-immigration, pro-civil rights crowd is rightfully on edge, as our current POTUS has promised a revised executive order regarding his January 27 travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries, put on pause by a recent ruling of Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Thursday, the Ninth's Chief Judge Sidney Thomas stayed any further proceedings in the case, pending the president's issuing his new EO. It's anticipated that Trump will order a wider travel ban, one more likely to survive judicial scrutiny.
When it comes to interior enforcement of immigration laws, Trump already has broadened the category of removable aliens in a separate executive order to include anyone convicted of a crime, charged with a crime, or even suspected of having committed a crime.
And yes, that's "crime," not "felony." Which might cover misdemeanors as well.
That potentially makes 8 million undocumented aliens removable.
Trump has made no decision yet on the kids granted a reprieve under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, but they could be on the hook as well.
And, chillingly, the federal government knows where to find them.
To remove all these people, Trump will need that "deportation force" he talked about during the election. Last week, the Associated Press reported on a draft memo that the AP claimed showed the administration was considering mobilizing state National Guard troops in several states to help round up illegal aliens.
Both the White House and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied this was under consideration, characterizing the memo as a low-level document. Whatever the truth, the mere plausibility of the AP report is unsettling.
But we live in unsettling times, and as scripture says, there will be both wars and rumors of war. Sometimes, they seem one and the same.
This was the case February 15, when the Phoenix City Council voted 7-2 not to consider a proposal to make Phoenix a "sanctuary city." The proposal would have achieved this by scrapping the Phoenix Police Department's Operations Order 4.48, a detailed, 11-page description of what cops can and can't do in regards to contacting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about a detainee's status.
That operations order is crafted to adhere to the dictates of Arizona's infamous immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, which requires law enforcement officers to check on a detainee's immigration status, if they develop reasonable suspicion to believe the person is in the country illegally.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 threw out some parts of the law and proscribed what remains. The section mandating the immigration check survived, though the high court made it clear that an officer cannot prolong a stop to do this.
Realistically, Phoenix must adhere to state law. If not, the Arizona Attorney General's Office could seek a court order that would allow the state to withhold revenue that it shares with the city. That revenue equals almost $400 million, about one-third of Phoenix's general fund, according to the most recent budget numbers.
Also under SB 1070, state and local government entities cannot limit or restrict enforcement of federal immigration statutes "to less than the full extent permitted by federal law."
If they do, any legal resident can sue the entity, and if a judge finds that the entity is in violation of 1070, it can be fined up to $5,000 a day for each day the policy is in effect.
That's not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds that Phoenix hypothetically would lose if the Trump administration retaliated against Phoenix, as it says it would against sanctuary cities.
For this, and many other reasons, the sanctuary city petition was dead on arrival. As was discussed at the council session, all those arrested by the PPD and other agencies have their immigration status checked when they are booked into the custody of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
In a surprise announcement on Friday, Sheriff Paul Penzone told reporters that the MCSO would no longer honor requests for holds on individuals by ICE, though an ICE agent will remain in the jails, and those booked into custody still will be screened for immigration status.
Pro-immigrant groups applauded the announcement. Penzone said the move was brought about by litigation, but did not get into specifics. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office later released a statement saying that Penzone's announcement came after consultation with the MCAO.
Whether the actual screenings can be halted is debatable, and the subject of an ongoing lawsuit. But the PPD essentially would have to stop arresting people to prevent their information from being shared with ICE.
Plus, to tell you the truth, as pro-immigration as I consider myself to be, I would be concerned if the MCSO stopped checking the immigration status of those booked into Fourth Avenue.
What if ICE determines that an arrestee was removed previously because of a conviction for a violent crime? Aren't those exactly the people we want booted out of the country?
In any case, the news that the Phoenix City Council had been petitioned to vote on being a "sanctuary city" was reported widely as if there was a real chance of this happening. There wasn't.
Still, all of the usual suspects and then some assembled at the Phoenix city council chambers to voice either their demand that the council make Phoenix a sanctuary city or their outrage that it was even being considered.
My colleague Antonia Farzan reported on the emotional food fight that took place. If you're a fan of acid indigestion, you can watch the entire thing on YouTube. I did, with a jumbo bottle of Pepto-Bismol.
On the anti-undocumented side, and against Phoenix becoming a sanctuary city, were familiar faces like right-wing activist Anna Gaines, Tim Rafferty of the anti-immigrant biker group Riders USA, and burly, white-bearded nativist Jim Williams.
And on the fiercely pro-immigrant, pro-sanctuary side were venerable souls such as Unitarian minister Susan Frederick-Gray, Carlos Garcia of the civil rights group Puente, and Dan O'Neal, Arizona State Coordinator of the Progressive Democrats of America.
Without detailing all the sound and fury, for me it was like watching a late-night rerun that I've seen many times before, and no doubt will see many more times to come.
In general, I agree with the latter group when it comes to immigration.
But their impassioned pleas for Mayor Stanton and the council to defy state and federal law and vote to make Phoenix a sanctuary city seemed naive to me, particularly given the origin of the petition they were fighting for.
It came from Rick Robinson, a local businessman and Republican activist who twice ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature.
I spoke to Robinson by phone for this column. He admitted to me that he hadn’t shown up for the vote on the 15th because "a personal matter came up."
He denied colluding with any of the Republicans on the council, but Robinson, who is a member of a city planning committee, said that he had help drafting the petition from a lawyer. He declined to share his attorney’s name.
He also told me that he wanted the council to vote the way they did.
I asked him why.
"Because I'm supporting the President's decree," he said, apparently referring to Trump's interior enforcement order. "And the council's been on the fence."
He said he had been vague on his stance in the run-up to the vote out of "habit," as he likes to keep a poker face before a vote on a board he's involved in, though, obviously, he is not on the city council and was not voting on the petition.
His purpose was to pin the politicians down, he explained. I wondered if he was at all bothered that he had riled people up for no good reason, as it was fairly clear from jump that the council would vote against the proposal.
"No, people are entitled to exercise their rights," he said. "I don't see any reason why exercising mine should be any different."
At this point, I'd be tempted to say that my progressive pals got played like a Stradivarius. The Republicans on the council, who are in a distinct minority in our mostly blue city, were clearly tickled at Stanton's predicament during the session.
Stanton didn't deserve the verbal abuse heaped upon him by fellow lefties. He has vociferously denounced Trump's immigration orders, and vowed to oppose any expansion of the federal 287(g) program — which deputizes local cops as ICE agents — into the PPD.
As an attorney and a man who is eyeing higher office, Stanton was not going to commit political suicide, and vote to violate the law, no matter how liberal the guy is. Please, spare me the comparisons to capitals of the uber-liberal consciousness, like Chicago, New York, or San Francisco, which have all gone "sanctuary."
Sadly, we ain't that civilized.
Moreover, the whining over the Phoenix Police Department's arresting protesters committing acts of civil disobedience recently as ICE carted off poor Guadalupe Garcia for deportation is absurd. If you commit civil disobedience and raise hell you're supposed to get pinched. That's the whole point. Sheesh.
Despite all this, Stanton has room to turn this debacle into a win.
During the same session, the council also voted to have the city attorney explore the possibility of a further challenge to SB 1070 on grounds other than the lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
That is likely a non-starter. It may be possible to mount a legal challenge at this late date, but scoring an injunction against 1070's enforcement seems highly unlikely, and few will have the stomach to spend taxpayer funds on a prolonged legal battle.
However, Stanton also announced the formation of an ad hoc committee to study issues surrounding 1070's enforcement, and that could bear fruit.
As it stands, Phoenix's operations order on immigration does not carve out any prohibitions on the questioning of victims about their immigration status by law enforcement.
Such protections for victims exist in some other Arizona cities, such as Tucson, and can be crafted legally. So why not do it? Democrats outnumber Republicans on the council six to three, and anyway, what kind of freak of nature would be for interrogating crime victims about their papers?
As for the progressives who had fun grandstanding at the city council session the other day, grow up.
Stanton is your ally, not your enemy. And in the evil days ahead, with Trump as president, we will need all the allies we can get.
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