Crime at the Heart of Arizona's Immigration Debate

Crime has been the central issue in the battle over Arizona's controversial new immigration law. Arizona Sheriff's Deputy Keith Henry is on the front lines, and he says human smuggling over the border from Mexico is rampant.

"It's huge," Henry said. "It's pretty bad out here."

The results can be seen in Arizona's prisons. According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, nearly 14 percent of all inmates in Arizona prisons are in this country illegally.

VIDEO: A month after the controversial law was passed, common ground is hard to find.
null

But it's more complicated than it looks. A survey by ABC News of federal and local law enforcement agencies on the U.S. side of the 2,000 mile long border with Mexico found that the rate of violent crimes is on the decline. In Tucson, crimes like murder, rape and assault declined 16 percent from last year. In Laredo, Texas those crimes are down four percent.

Police Sgt. Clint Norred patrols the Arizona town of Yuma.

"For the past five years, the crime rate has been relatively the same," he said.

VIDEO of Police Chiefs after their meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder at the Department of Justice, discussing Arizona Immigration Law.
null

Crime as a Flashpoint

But several high-profile cases -- including the murder of an Arizona rancher -- have kept crime at the forefront of the immigration debate. That killing was critical in the passage of Arizona's new immigration law.

The Arizona law requires police in the state to ask people for their documents if they have "reasonable suspicions" about their immigration status. The law will go into effect July 29 unless legal challenges stop it.

President Barack Obama, who opposes the law, renewed his opposition today at a news conference, but he fell short of supporting the decision of states like California to boycott Arizona. He said the decision to boycott is the decision of a private person, not a president.

Police Chiefs Speak Out

The President's criticism comes a day after eight police chiefs from around the nation met with Attorney General Eric Holder to voice their complaints against the law. The police said that the law would turn them into border patrol officers.

Tucson police chief Roberto Villasenor said the Arizona law could reverse recent declines in violent and property crimes.

"When you enact legislation that makes any subset of that community feel like they are being targeted specifically or have concerns about coming forward and talking to police, that damages our capability to obtain information to solve the crimes," Villasenor said to reporters in Washington.

Arizona Immigration Law: Mayor vs. Mayor

Back in Arizona, two mayors take two different sides on the state's new law. Their towns are two miles apart, but their views on the law are nowhere near each other.

"There's a strong feeling that it's designed to protect the citizens and to prevent further breaking of the law," said Boyd Dunn, the mayor of Chandler.

Dunn supports the controversial law. He says that there's a connection between crime and illegal immigration.

"We've had shootouts on the freeway near our city between drug smugglers," Dunn said.

Meanwhile Yolanda Solarez takes the opposite view. She is the mayor of Guadalupe, a largely Latino town.

"I feel that it would target," she said. "Especially the Latino community."

Federal Challenge?

The U.S. Justice Department warns that the law could lead to targeting people based on race too. It is mulling a legal challenge to the law.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
null
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...