The Investigators

Nov 6, 2013 11:27 PM by Matthew Schwartz

TPD Chief fires back on immigration law

TUCSON - Roberto Villasenor is worried that the controversial immigration law, Arizona Senate Bill 1070, could cause more than protests by immigration activists, such as the demonstration south of downtown a month ago.

Tucson's Police Chief is worried that SB1070 could lead to violence.

"This (SB 1070) has the potential to tear our community apart," Chief Villasenor told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. "What bothers me is that when you then emphasize the divisiveness or a certain issue, and cause greater emotion and greater angst and anger about that, then you increase the possibility for injury not only to my officers but to citizens."

Villasenor has been a long-time critic of the law that requires local police to call the Border Patrol whenever they detain undocumented immigrants.

Villasenor told us, "I don't agree with SB 1070. But that doesn't mean I get to say I'm not going to enforce it, because then I don't stand for anything."

We asked Villasenor, "If you could re-write the law, how would you?" He replied, "Well, I wouldn't involve local law enforcement. It's not our purview, that's a responsibility of federal government."

Villasenor has repeatedly said he thinks SB 1070 puts local cops in a tough spot.

"You know, on a Friday or Saturday night, when we're going call to call, we've got shootings, we've got stabbings, we've got robberies going on," Villasenor said. "Is immigration enforcement really the biggest thing we need to deal with at that point? It has a potential for division within our community and to put law enforcement between a rock and a hard place, and that's where I see us going right now. No matter what we do, we're not doing right."

Villasenor admits his opposition to SB 1070 has hurt his standing in the Hispanic community. He said, "I am disappointed that they're trying to place me as the cause of the problem. And saying that I am directing things inappropriately. I'm following the law. And to say anything different is misleading."

Villasenor calls the controversy over SB 1070 one of the most difficult issues he's had to deal with. But he's not changing his stance, and in fact fired back at critics.

He told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "Now all of a sudden the same people who used to praise me for being outspoken and vocal are now saying that I'm a sell-out and that I've turned back on my word. I've never changed my opinion, I still don't agree with the law, and I've never changed what I said my responsibility is, which is to enforce the law. And I will continue to do so."

Tucson City Council and the City Attorney are reviewing SB 1070 to see if there's anything that can and should be done locally to make any changes. Council is meeting Nov. 13 in a study session, and SB1070 is expected to be the main topic of conversation.

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