Razing Arizona: How Local, State and Federal Authorities are “Rooting Out” Arizona’s Immigration Problems

immigration reformA perfect storm hit the state of Arizona this week. On Tuesday, the Arizona House passed SB1070—a bill which would compel local police officers to investigate people’s immigration status based on a “reasonable suspicion” he/she was in the country illegally. Two days later, Arizona residents witnessed local police descending onto their streets (along with hundreds of ICE and other federal enforcement agents) in a sweep of 52 people suspected to be part of a large-scale human-smuggling ring.

More than 800 law enforcement officers took part in what was dubbed “Operation in Plain Sight”—the result of a year-long investigation targeting transportation companies allegedly involved in smuggling unauthorized immigrants across the border. According to ICE, the agents and officers represented nine federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies resulting in a large and disproportionate show of force, as 54 suspects were taken into custody. Arrests were made in Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, and Rio Rico, as well as in Nogales, Mexico. Those arrested were charged with serious crimes—including money laundering, alien smuggling, and conspiracy.

In all fairness, this operation focused on what DHS should be doing—finding dangerous criminals like human smugglers and putting them out of business. ICE reportedly tried to arrest only those listed in criminal indictments and did not try to increase the number of arrests by picking up bystanders, or “collaterals,” as ICE calls them. They cooperated with the Mexican government and stopped criminals who were harming people on both sides of the border. Smart enforcement should include targeting smugglers, traffickers, and other criminals who are taking advantage of a broken immigration system and creating a climate of violence and fear along the border.

However, the timing and tone-deafness of this action could not have been worse. ICE has a history of conducting raids just as state or local governments are contemplating critical immigration-related policies. At best, the action left the impression that ICE wants to influence those policy decisions; at worst ICE left the public with the impression that local law enforcement is the same thing as an ICE officer. The massive display of force, a 14-to-1 police to suspect ratio, shows a lopsided use of resources and further terrorizes an already fearful community. The fact that local police were involved made an already bad situation worse. With Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his posse hunting down immigrants in Maricopa County and a potential new law poised to expand this to police agencies statewide, the last thing the immigrant community (and the police who want to serve and protect them) needed was to see their local police officers standing side by side with ICE during such a large enforcement action.


In recent weeks, ICE has come under a great deal of fire for failing to focus resources on criminal threats. Leaked internal memos showed an agency in which external priorities and internal policies differed greatly. A report by the DHS Office of Inspector General on the 287(g) program illuminated the agency’s inability to supervise and manage an expanding program.

While this action was not supposed to be about local law enforcement or picking up border-crossers, it left an incredibly strong impression on these immigrant communities in Arizona. “Operation In Plain Sight” may have had the right intentions, but it’s hard to cheer on an agency who seems to only get it right about 1% of the time.

Michele Waslin

Republished with permission from Immigration Impact.


  1. SK says

    Michele, you seem so desperate to increase the number of Mexicans living in this country, that you don’t think the local police should be involved in capturing some of the worst criminals in our country, that is IF it has to do with crimes associated with Mexicans.

    The ICE investigation targeted Arizona human smuggling networks. They stopped human traffickers, those immoral lawbreakers who kidnap innocent young girls and ship them into this country in order to sell them to rapist pimps who terrorize them and profit from illegal child porn and prostitution. Jeez, aren’t those the kind of criminals we WANT the cops and the federal government to go after? They even identified the commercial transportation companies involved in the trafficking.

    But, Oh My God, they used a “massive display of force, a 14-to-1 police to suspect ratio” when they rounded up the bad guys, which, according to you, “shows a lopsided use of resources and further terrorizes an already fearful community.”

    Huh? Are you implying that the entire Hispanic community is involved in human trafficking? Why else would they be fearful of an excellently coordinated police action? An action that results in the arrest of people who take advantage of poor, uneducated Mexicans? Shouldn’t the Hispanic community breathe a sigh of relief that they’re being protected from these terrible predators? The cops and ICE aren’t pulling people off the streets because they’re Hispanic, they spent a year identifying the owners and operators in a huge human trafficking ring, and arrested them. Hurray!

    If people like you would quit pushing for an increase in immigration from Mexico at any cost (your so called “immigration reform” which really means prioritizing Mexicans over other potential immigrants), we could shut down some of the problems associated with these criminals. But every time we try to establish and enforce policies that would actually help the situation, naïve liberals jump up and down screaming racism.

    Has it ever occurred to you that by limiting illegal immigration, we actually are helping our legal immigrants from Mexico? Or is your desire to give amnesty to illegal aliens just so big that you can’t recognize the problems that amnesty would create?

    The Immigration Policy Center says, “Legalization of unauthorized immigrants already in the United States will result in a significantly smaller unauthorized population…” Well, duh. The number of illegal aliens would drop because they’d all suddenly be American citizens. It would drop to zero, then zoom right back up as millions more sneak across the border to claim citizenship from the suckers who waste millions funding an agency that should facilitate smart immigration, but instead lets Mexicans take advantage over and over again.

    BTW, legalizing pot, crack, heroin, meth, ice, burglary, theft, prostitution, murder and rape would also result in a wonderfully quick reduction in the NUMBER of criminals. Should we use the same approach on these problems?

    We already allow more Mexicans to immigrate here legally compared to immigrants from any other country. As a reward, Spanish is the only language that has been forced on English speaking citizens (in the form of increased costs for bilingual communication for most government functions, extra teachers to teach kids in Spanish instead of English, and the many other ways we have to pay double for both languages. French Canadians don’t force us to communicate or teach in French, the Irish and Polish and Italians, in fact, no other immigrant group has refused to learn English, in spite of the millions who have come to these shores speaking different languages. Given the amount of resentment this refusal to assimilate is causing, why are you pushing to give voting rights to millions more Hispanic people? So they can utilize their power as a voting block to make our government accommodate them with two official languages? Jeez. I wish goo intentioned liberals would spend some time and effort helping the poor Mexicans who DIDN’T sneak over our border. They’re just as important as the ones who broke the law to come here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *