When Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 immigration bill was signed into law and began to go into effect in 2010, it sparked many angry protests. And not just in the state, but across the country.
But after local and federal courts overturned parts of the law, diluting it somewhat, things seemed to quiet down in Arizona. Until now.
Possibly emboldened by images of protesters clashing with police in Ferguson, Missouri, unrest in the Grand Canyon State has increased since police started widely enforcing the parts of SB1070 that have been upheld by courts.
One provision requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of those they stop for violating other laws. Under the “show me your papers” rule, if the person stopped is undocumented, police officers are required to contact the U.S. Border Patrol.
And that is not sitting well with some people in Arizona.
Last week, Norlan Flores Prado, a day laborer from Nicaragua, was pulled over for making a wide turn on his way to see his newborn baby at the hospital. Police officers checked his immigration status and noticed he was undocumented.
A large protest began as Border Patrol officials arrived at the scene, with some protesters swarming his car and placing themselves under the tires. More immigration activists heard about the stop, and the crowd grew larger.
Eventually, additional police officers were called to the scene.
Officers broke up the protest without any arrests. Flores Prado, who has been in the United States for 10 years, was placed in the custody of the Border Patrol.
Prado’s arrest was the second immigration-related arrest within days in the area – and it underscored simmering tensions in the community over the law. Those who favor strong immigration enforcement say that the law was needed to control a growing influx of undocumented immigrants that they said was placing a financial strain on the state.
But activists claim racial profiling is at the heart of each stop – and they are vowing protest every time a police officer hands an undocumented immigrant over to federal authorities.
“There is no way to enforce SB1070 without racial profiling,” activist Raul Alcaraz Ochoa told Fox News Latino. “Because the very premise and very basis of stopping somebody and asking them for their papers and verifying their immigration status, is very connected to race and profiling based on race.”
Alcaraz Ochoa, who works to connect local day laborers with employees, said Flores Prado is one of his workers.
Alcaraz Ochoa has a history of protesting the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants after routine traffic stops – and at one point last year was arrested during his protest. He said the police department should do a better job building trust between the officers and the community and not work hand in hand with Border Patrol.
But Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said in a phone interview, that his department began working with the Border Patrol long before the implementation of SB1070.
“We work with them—we have for years. The word ‘collaborate’ is a term that’s being used by immigrant activists to give an image of some type of conspiracy,” said Villaseñor.
As for the racial profiling claims, he says the number of Hispanics stopped in the checks is not disproportionate. “Our latest stats show it’s about 43 percent, which is exactly the proportion of Hispanics in our community.”
Villaseñor, who has been an outspoken critic of SB1070 but says that he’s bound by the law to enforce it, told The Associated Press that police officers have called the Border Patrol about 2,000 times since June 12, and agents have responded only about 1 percent of the time.
Still, he said, he knew the law would cause problems once it went into effect.
"Back in 2010, I predicted this is exactly the type of strife that this law will cause within a community,” Villaseñor told the AP. “And this is one of the main reasons I was against this law and this statute."