Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon – a Democrat – is coming under fire from people in Phoenix, from within Arizona, and from across the country for ordering his police officers to check the legal status of criminals after they’ve committed a crime. But what’s so wrong about that?
The story began on September 18th, 2007 as Phoenix Police Officer Nick Erfle was shot in the face and killed by an illegal alien from Mexico. The Mexican national was apprehended for jay walking and obstructing traffic. Then, he gave the wrong “fake name” to police, one that had an outstanding arrest warrant.
After murdering Officer Erfle, the suspect then carjacked a vehicle, and took the female driver as a hostage. It took police an hour to track down and box in the suspect’s vehicle. Once trapped, the suspect then pointed his weapon at the head of the hostage, at which point an officer opened fire and shot and killed the suspect.
It’s terrible enough that criminals such as this, so heinous as to murder a an officer of the law, exist in the United States; but this one didn’t have any right to be here. It was later discovered that the suspect has a felony record and was deported in 2006. He then crossed the border illegally to reenter the United States.
Being called into question is Phoenix Police Operation Order 1.4. The order, that Mayor Gordon said was “written for another time,” calls for police to refrain from reporting Mexican nationals who are in this country illegally to either federal or state immigration officials if the crime committed was a misdemeanor and the criminal meets “cite and release” criteria, if the crime was a minor traffic violation, or if the only crime committed was a federal immigration violation.
Critics of the order have called it “catch and release” and that it is tantamount to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” saying that the policy has made Phoenix a sanctuary city.
Mayor Gordon has ordered a four man panel consisting of two former US attorneys, a former Arizona state attorney general, and a former Maricopa County attorney to develop a new order that will more strongly enforce immigration law. The deadline given by the mayor is December 31st.
Gordon blames the federal government’s failures on his imminent need to take action. “The problem has escalated to where it is ugly, it is dangerous,” he said. The federal government is unable to complete what they should be doing, and I cannot, as mayor, allow the situation, the status quo, to stay the same.”
Critics have called the mayor’s plan to change the immigration policy “terrorism against immigrants.” However, immigrants are not being targeted, not in the slightest bit. The only change that Gordon is asking to be made is that police officers be allowed to check the legal status of a person who is a criminal suspect.
One activist, Elias Bermudez, is a popular Spanish-language radio host and Hispanic community leader. He says that he will advise his listeners to do the most dangerous thing that any person can do when they are suspected of committing a crime; to not cooperate with police – the exact opposite of what anyone should do when being instructed to comply by an officer.
“My message is please do not answer the question: ‘Are you here legally or not?’” Bermudez says. “That question has to be answered in a court of law and under the due process of law,” though once detained, Mexican citizens illegally in the country will still have a right to a fair and speedy trial.
Mr. Bermudez, and others who share his sentiment, are accomplishing nothing other than to put American citizens, immigrants the United States, and Mexican nations into harm’s way by combating police when they are suspected of having committed a crime.
Of course, the tragic death of Officer Erfle isn’t really the beginning of this story. It has been an ongoing tale of human trafficking and drug smuggling through a porous border. It’s the account of countless American kids who were killed by or who used drugs send to America over the Mexican border. It’s the continuing saga of uninsured Mexican nationals driving dangerous vehicles on Phoenix highways and causing thousands of accidents, though they don’t have insurance. It’s the plight of hospitals on the border of bankruptcy for treating so many Mexican citizens who have no medical insurance and to intention of ever paying hospital bills. It’s the story of a Mexican father lifting his seven year old son over neighborhood walls to see if there’s anything in people’s backyards that can be easily taken. It’s loud and leaky pickup trucks that tear through neighborhoods at night, and leave nothing but trails of oil and rows of dumped out and torn up garbage bags, the contents laying scattered in yards and streets after being rummaged through for the slightest of trinkets. It’s an endless battle that no one is winning and everyone is losing.
If Mayor Gordon’s plan makes any progress in the fight against illegal immigration, for the first time in my life I’ll be proud to have voted for him.