Today on Fox News, an Arizona sheriff's deputy, who will be enforcing Arizona's new immigration law starting tomorrow, revealed that he does not know what the law actually says.
When asked by America's Newsroom host Bill Hemmer about how the law will be enforced, deputy Steve Henry stated that "the crime is trespassing. And we book on state crimes. So if the crime is trespassing in the state of Arizona, then we're going to book you on that state charge. And eventually you'll go through the system and ICE will get involved and it will go through the deportation process after whatever the court decides to do for that person for that state crime."
But the crime isn't "trespassing." As the Arizona Capitol Times reported back in March, the Arizona legislature removed the trespass provisions from the bill:
In its original form, the bill would have allowed trespassing charges to be brought against anyone on any public or private land in Arizona who is in violation of their federal immigration status. The amendment, though, changes the language so that illegal immigrants could be charged with "willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document," rather than trespassing. It also removes the part about being on any public or private property.
Hemmer did not correct Henry, who is the chief deputy at the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.
Throughout the debate over the Arizona law, Fox News has attached itself to the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, which supports the new law, and privileged its views over other Arizona law enforcement representatives who oppose it. In fact, last week Fox correspondent William La Jeunesse worked with PCSO to produce a role playing bit purporting to show how the law will be enforced without racial profiling. And this week, La Jeunesse tagged along with Pinal deputies on patrol and reported that Pinal Sheriff Paul Babeu "says the Obama Administration needs to help the state of Arizona, not sue it." We noted on July 15 that Fox News had hosted Babeu for 18 separate live interviews since mid-April while ignoring Arizona Sheriffs Tony Estrada and Ralph Ogden, who have raised concerns about the new law.
If the network had reached out to a wider range of opinions on the Arizona law, Fox would have known that law enforcement leaders have long been concerned that the new law does not provide clear enough direction to the officers on the ground.
Clarence Dupnik, who has served as the sheriff of Pima County, Arizona, for 30 years, wrote in a May 5 Wall Street Journal op-ed that a "fundamental problem" with the Arizona law "is its vague language." He wrote:
When used in a law-enforcement context, "reasonable suspicion" is always understood to be subjective, but it must be capable of being articulated. In the case of identifying illegal immigrants, the ambiguity of what this "crime" looks like risks including an individual's appearance, which would seem to violate the Constitution's equal protection clause. Such ambiguity is especially dangerous when prescribed to an issue as fraught with emotion as that of illegal immigration.
I have an enormous amount of respect for the men and women of my department--the deputy sheriffs who respond to calls for assistance throughout Pima County every day of the week. I have no doubt that they make intelligent, compassionate and reasonable decisions countless times throughout their shifts. But no one can tell them what an illegal immigrant looks like and when it is ok to begin questioning a person along those lines. This law puts them in a no-win situation: They will be forced to offend and anger someone who is perhaps a citizen or here legally when they ask to see his papers--or be accused of nonfeasance because they do not.
Dupnik's concern is shared with legal experts and others in law enforcement, who have said that the nature and language of the statue places police officers "in a very difficult position."
Many in Arizona law enforcement have now viewed a training video on the law, but according to Tucson police chief Roberto Villasenor, the video doesn't give complete and clear instructions that ensure the various agencies will enforce the law uniformly. Indeed, the Arizona Republic reports today that "a survey of Arizona police agencies indicates there is anything but a uniform approach" to the implementation of the new law and that "[t]he varied approaches are a reflection of the confusion that persists among agencies tasked with enforcing the law."
Hemmer ended the interview today by stating, "Well, we've heard some others in law enforcement out there in Arizona, it's another tool in the toolbox to fight crime and they would argue there's no lack of crime today in Arizona." It doesn't surprise me that that's what Hemmer has heard because that is evidently the opinion that Fox News has sought.
But as we noted, crime rates in the state have dropped significantly over the past decade and over the past year. And numerous law enforcement leaders, including Sheriff Estrada, Phoenix police chief Jack Harris and Sheriff Dupnik have said that current laws provide all the "tools" they need to fight crime and that the new law actually risks diverting their resources away from that central task.