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South Tucson, ACLU settle racial profiling claim

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South Tucson, ACLU settle racial profiling claim

South Tucson officials signed a comprehensive agreement Monday, revamping the city's policies on enforcing SB 1070, closing a racial profiling complaint filed last year by the ACLU on behalf of a man stopped by police.

The American Civil Liberties Union had alleged that South Tucson police illegally detained Alex Valenzuela in order to check his immigration status after a routine traffic stop, even after he produced multiple forms of identity.

The claim, filed in November 2013, was the first legal challenge to the enforcement of Section 2(B) of SB 1070, the so-called "show me your papers" section, since it went into effect in September 2012. That provision requires local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of those they stop if they suspect the person is in the country illegally, although a Supreme Court ruling on SB 1070 specified that a person cannot be detained for a prolonged period of time for this purpose.

The new policy provisions adopted by South Tucson include, according to the ACLU:

  • South Tucson and all of its agents, employees and officers acknowledge that unauthorized presence in the United States is not a crime.
  • Officers are prohibited from relying on race, ethnicity, lack of English fluency and/or speaking with an accent, possession of foreign documentation, lack of identification or dress as a reason to believe that a person is unlawfully present in the United States.
  • Officers are prohibited from prolonging stops, detentions or arrests in order to determine immigration status.
  • Officers shall not question students, victims or witnesses of crime, or people filing police behavior complaints, about their immigration status.
  • Officers will not transport a person to a federal immigration facility (including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities) for the purpose of investigating the person’s immigration status.
  • At the beginning of each vehicle stop, officers are required to contact dispatch and state the reason for the stop.
  • Officers, when practicable, must check with a supervisor before making an immigration-related inquiry to confirm such questioning is justified.
  • All officers must participate in continuing education on bias-free policing and the limits of officers’ immigration enforcement authority.

One of the most important parts of the new policy, according to the ACLU, is a data collection requirement meant to help the department and the public make sure officers are policing without racial bias. It "requires that officers collect, and supervisors aggregate monthly, data about pedestrian and vehicle stops that result in a citation or arrest, including the perceived race of individuals stopped. Officers must document extra information about every immigration-related inquiry, including the reason for making the inquiry," the ACLU said in a news release.

"With these reforms, South Tucson joins a growing number of municipalities around the country who recognize that turning local police into immigration officials is bad policy," said James Duff Lyall, an ACLU attorney.

"It's time for other Arizona cities and police departments to adopt their own reforms and show they are serious about repairing the damage SB 1070 has done," Valenzuela said in the release. "Our communities will continue organizing and working together to ensure that discriminatory policing is no longer tolerated."

The ACLU, which has pledged to continue its fight against SB1070, filed a similar notice of claim against the Tucson Police Department in early April.

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