Police chief to Obama: a secured border means no SB1070

Police chief to Obama: a secured border means no SB1070

CREATED Apr 25, 2011

Reporter: Steve Nuñez
Web Producer: Ina Ronquillo

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – On the one year anniversary of the signing of SB1070, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor held a press conference to share details on the conversation he had with President Obama last week.

The President invited ten sheriffs and police chiefs, including Villaseñor, from around the nation to discuss strategies on "fixing the broken immigration issue."

Villaseñor called the meeting "constructive."

He admitted the group was mostly pro-immigration, but they recognized that achieving "reasonable reform" requires border security to be a top priority in setting policy.  

"I had the impression the president listened and accepted those comments as constructive statements."

Villaseñor also denied claims by other top law officers, including Sheriff's Paul Babeu of Pinal County and Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, that President Obama only heard "voices" from those who opposed SB1070. The law would require officers to enforce immigration laws and arrest those of being in the country illegally and fail to show proof of citizenship. The federal courts have blocked this part of the law while its constitutionality is being decided.

"So what do you say to sheriffs and other top law officers who say President Obama only invited 'yes' men?" asked Nine On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez.

"I don't consider myself a 'yes' man," said Villaseñor.

Villaseñor claims he's a registered Republican but understands the importance of representing both sides of the immigration issue.

In fact, he said the group emphasized the need to punish illegal immigrants.

He said the group presented this strategy as a way for President Obama to combat the perception that illegal immigrants are given "freebies" despite breaking the law.

"I think one of the topics brought about saying that if amnesty was part of that it's going to be dead in the water for some people," said Villaseñor. "But on the other hand I think there were some people that probably would go towards that type of venue."

And while Villaseñor said SB1070 was not a big part of the overall conversation, he does admit he stressed the importance that the President set policy that clearly mandates that federal agents, and not local police, enforce immigration laws.

"And we (local) need to concentrate on the violent crime in the community," said Villaseñor. "We will arrest illegal immigrants if we come across illegal immigrants and we can then turn them over to Border Patrol or ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement). But our main focus has to be on the safety of everyone in our jurisdiction and I didn't want any type of policy to impede the flow of information we need to help achieve that goal."

Villaseñor said the president told the group he hopes to have a new policy in place within a year.

The police chief also made it clear he used money seized from drug dealers, and not taxpayer money, to pay for his trip.