A group that calls itself Coalition for Immigration Reform - East Valley asked the Chandler City Council to pass a resolution opposing Senate Bill B1070 and vowed to take the campaign to Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert.
But after the council's brief response to their plea Thursday night, members said they were not hopeful that a resolution would ever come up for a vote.
"I didn't see any great openness on their faces. It's not in their political interest," said retired teacher and longtime Chandler resident Brian Barabe, who made the presentation.
SB 1070 takes effect July 29 and makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. Barabe argued that enforcement will be a financial burden. "Has the city calculated the losses to tax-paying constituents in terms of lost rentals, lost mortgage payments and lost sales in general as breadwinners are arrested or families flee the city out of fear of arrest," he asked the council.
Two other members of the group said even though they are longtime Chandler residents and U.S. citizens, their Hispanic heritage and appearance makes them fearful. "I still remember what happened in 1997; I was here," said Ana Cabrera.
Chandler drew widespread criticism for a roundup of suspected illegal immigrants in 1997. For four days police and federal agents set out to arrest undocumented immigrants in downtown neighborhoods, and they arrested 340. But some of those taken into custody were legal residents, and Hispanic community leaders were outraged. The city was sued and paid more than $500,000 in out-of-court settlements.
Raquel Leyva serves on a city commission but said she is worried what would happen to her adult mentally disabled son if he is confronted by police. He carries no identification and is fearful of strangers, she said.
After the three spoke, Mayor Boyd Dunn said Chandler will make certain the law is followed carefully and without racial profiling. Councilwoman Trinity Donovan encouraged them to meet with the city's Human Relations Commission. Neither addressed the request for a resolution.
Police Chief Sherry Kiyler told the speakers outside the meeting that officers would not engage in racial profiling and police departments across the Valley are working to understand the law and how to enforce it. "I think the fear is greater than the reality," she said.
Barabe said his organization is an informal group of about 30 longtime friends and many are supporters of local Latino arts and culture. They will appear before the other East Valley city councils and meet with municipal officials in coming weeks, arguing the economic bill's negative economic impacts, he said.
Barabe, a former high school Spanish and English teacher, questioned whether enough of the city's police officers can are fluent enough in Spanish to make arrests and read suspects their Miranda warnings.
"Have the city and police department calculated the human costs with an eye toward the distrust of police and damage to the spirit of cooperation with police in the Latino community that will result from enforcement of this law?" Barabe asked the council. "Has the police department been able to assure the council that racial profiling will not occur during traffic stops and criminal investigations?"
Earlier this month in Tempe an activist group pushed that city to defy the state's new immigration law, but municipal spokesman Nikki Ripley said the city will enforce the law when it goes into effect next month.
Refusing to enforce the state law could subject a city to lawsuits, said Paul Bender, an Arizona State University law professor.
Tolleson, Flagstaff, San Luis and Somerton have joined a lawsuit to block the bill from taking effect.