Judicial Watch accuses left-wing group of ordering Phoenix to become a sanctuary city
On Tuesday, Judicial Watch, a right-wing government watchdog organization, released hundreds of emails showing that Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams had a closed-door meeting with Will Gaona, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona, in the weeks before the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) revised their immigration policies.
In July, the PPD implemented many of the ACLU’s policies while revising Operations Order 4.48, the city police policy on immigration.
Under the city’s new policy, Phoenix police officers are banned from contacting federal immigration agencies after arresting undocumented immigrants, inquiring about a suspect's immigration status, or detaining individuals on the request of federal immigration agents unless there is a warrant signed by a judge.
Judicial Watch claims that the emails show Gaona met with Williams to “order the policy change.” They also claim that the new order violates a state law that was upheld by the US Supreme Court.
The emails began when Phoenix officials were contacted by local activists from People Power, a grassroots community group launched by the ACLU, as “a direct response to the Trump administration’s attacks on civil liberties and civil rights.”
Starting in April, the group first contacted Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher, who praised People Power as “one of the most reasonable groups I’ve talked with” and said that the small organization wanted to work with the city “in a non-adversarial way.”
People Power leader RaeAnne Marsh asked Phoenix officials to adopt the group’s Nine Model Policies, which she argued would financially benefit the city.
According to the group, banning local officers from “volunteering to do immigration detention without a judge’s approval” would save the city tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. By requiring a warrant, the ACLU also states they would be “protecting everyone’s constitutional rights.”
The group claims their policies also cut costs by barring officers from arresting and transporting individuals based on federal immigration requests, which they also said violates the Fourth Amendment.
The group also suggested other policies that they claimed would “prevent the discriminatory targeting of groups” by barring officers from asking individuals about their immigration status or making arrests based on racial profiling.
In June the PPD implemented new immigration policies that mirrored what the ACLU suggested in their emails.
When the revised policies were implemented, the ACLU said they were “an important step toward eliminating racial profiling by Phoenix police.”
In January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, directing the Department of Justice to withhold federal grant money from jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration officers.
Last week, California became the first state to sue the DOJ over the rule, arguing that it violates the Constitution. The lawsuit, which was also filed by the city of San Francisco, claims that the executive order is “unconstitutional on its face.”
On Tuesday, attorneys for Los Angeles filed legal claims in Northern California federal court, seeking to join the state in their lawsuit.
The California legislature is also set to vote on Senate Bill 54, which would ensure undocumented immigrants are protected by barring local law officers from complying with federal immigration officers.
The Trump administration has threatened to withhold grant money from the state if the law is passed, according to the Intercept.