PHOENIX – Police in suburban Scottsdale have begun routinely asking for proof of citizenship from every suspect they arrest and turning those who are in this country illegally over to federal immigration officials.
The procedure was started Oct. 15, a result of the September killing of Phoenix police officer Nick Erfle by an illegal immigrant, Erik Jovani Martinez.
Scottsdale police had arrested Martinez on a misdemeanor charge 16 months earlier but they released him then because they didn't know he was an illegal immigrant who had been twice deported.
Erfle's killing "caused us to look at what were asking suspects," Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said. "If we arrest someone and then find that we called ICE (Customs and Immigration Enforcement) and they put a hold on them, then we know they have been deported and are back again."
Martinez was later killed by police after he stole a car and took a hostage, authorities said.
Now police in the affluent suburb ask every suspect about their citizenship, have ICE agents pick up those who are in this country illegally, and keep a database of possible illegal immigrants in case they turn up again.
Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross supports the policy change and said that because every suspect is asked about citizenship, police are not engaged in racial profiling.
"I would not tolerate that," Manross said. "I think the chief has struck the right balance to do what we want to achieve."
Clark said that in the past Scottsdale officers didn't routinely call ICE about illegal immigrants because the agency was short-handed and could not always respond.
That's changed, said Eduardo Preciado, an assistant ICE field officer in Phoenix. The agency was short-staffed until about a year ago when it added agents to man phones and to assist local law enforcement agencies, he said.
"Now we respond to every call," Preciado said.