SOUTH TUCSON, ARIZ.—The American Civil Liberties Union and officials of South Tucson late yesterday signed a comprehensive settlement overhauling the South Tucson Police Department’s policies with respect to immigration enforcement, bringing to a close a racial profiling complaint filed last year on behalf of student Alex Valenzuela.

Valenzuela was detained by police and transferred to Border Patrol last summer without having been accused of a crime under state or local law. These illegal practices are common in Arizona as a result of the “show me your papers” provision of SB 1070, which went into effect in September 2012.

“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. “Our communities will continue organizing and working together to ensure that discriminatory policing is no longer tolerated.”

Alex was a passenger in a parked car on July 13, 2013, when South Tucson police officers unlawfully detained him in order to question him about his citizenship. The ACLU filed a notice of claim under state law on his behalf in November 2013, the first legal challenge to Section 2(B) of SB 1070 since the law went into effect. Settlement discussions followed.

Policy provisions adopted by South Tucson include:

  • 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.

“Since Section 2(B) went into effect, as the ACLU and our allies predicted, harmful policing practices have cropped up throughout Arizona,” said Christine P. Sun, an attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “South Tucson’s new policies can serve as a good example to cities throughout the state of how they can better serve their diverse communities and respect people’s rights.”

One of the most important aspects of South Tucson’s new policy is its data collection requirement, which will help both the Police Department and the public determine if officers are policing without racial bias. The new policy 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.

“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 attorney with the ACLU’s Border Litigation Project.

The ACLU filed a similar notice of claim against the Tucson Police Department in early April. Tucson officials have until early June to respond before a lawsuit can be filed.