Pima County, AZ sheriff Sheriff Clarence Dupnik

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Pima County, Arizona sheriff talks about border security and his state’s controversial new law targeting illegal immigrants.

Clarence Dupnik has been in law enforcement for more than 50 years. He was appointed sheriff of Pima County, Arizona in 1980 and has been elected to the post seven times. Formerly the department's chief deputy, he also spent time with the Tucson PD, where he was promoted through the ranks to field operations major. Dupnik has also been the longtime Arizona rep with Operation Alliance, which prepares border control strategies and coordinates drug enforcement activities of numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.


Tavis: Clarence Dupnik is the sheriff of Pima County in Arizona, which includes the city of Tucson. He first joined the Tucson Police Department back in 1958 and has been serving as sheriff for 30 years now. He joins us tonight from Tucson. Sheriff Dupnik, thanks for your time, sir. Good to have you on.
Sheriff Clarence Dupnik: Thank you.
Tavis: What do you make of all the controversy that this law has caused to erupt in Arizona and beyond, for that matter?
Dupnik: Well, I would think that the people who legislated the law should have anticipated what might have happened if they in fact implemented this law, and I think it’s a travesty. It’s unfortunate, it’s not good for Arizona, it’s not good for the Hispanic community and it’s not good for America.
Tavis: Why is it not good for Arizona?
Dupnik: Well first of all, most people don’t understand this, Tavis, but this law doesn’t give any more authority to police officers in Arizona than they already have. We currently, when we in the routine course of our duties encounter illegal aliens, we stop and detain them and call the Border Patrol and turn them over to the Border Patrol.
Now under this new law, if I’m forced to implement it I now have to take these people, put them in the local jail, put them in the local criminal justice system, overwhelm it, throw the jail into a crisis and then send the taxpayers a bill. In the process, we also are in a position where we’ve done great damage to the Hispanic community already.
Tavis: When you say great damage already, you mean by that what, Sheriff?
Dupnik: Well, if I woke up the day after this bill was passed and I was Hispanic, I would feel like somebody kicked me right square in the teeth. I would feel like I was now a second-class citizen and that I was going to be stopped any time I left my house. That is a realistic possibility. It just turned them into second-class citizens and it doesn’t make any sense, because it doesn’t accomplish anything.
First of all, it has no impact at all on illegal immigration. The only thing that’s going to impact illegal immigration is to do a better job of securing the border and to do immigration reform.
Tavis: What about those who, to your point now, Sheriff, say that the only reason why Governor Brewer did what she did is because the federal government, to your point, has abrogated its responsibility in this matter?
Dupnik: Well, I don’t know that they have. The fact of the matter is the border has never been secure, but in my judgment it is more secure now than, for example, it was 10 years ago or nine years ago or five years ago.
Ten years ago we arrested – or I should say primarily the Border Patrol and the military had over about 800,000 arrests of illegal immigrants. Last year they only had 200 and some thousand. So based on that, they have made substantial improvements.
Have they secured the border? No. Will the border ever be secure? Not in my judgment. Will we ever have immigration reform? Not in my judgment.
Tavis: Well, if the border is never going to be secure, to your point, and illegals continue to run into the country, why doesn’t it make sense, then, that at some point these states are going to be overrun with services that they can’t provide? Hence, somebody has to do something.
Dupnik: Well, this has already been the situation for the last 30 or 40 years. We have been literally overrun. That’s why in 1986 President Reagan declared amnesty. Amnesty only works if you can stop the migration. But I think we could do a substantially better job of securing the border. It’ll never be totally secure, but we could do a substantially better job of it.
Tavis: What’s not being done that ought to be done to secure the borders?
Dupnik: Boy, you’d have to have a whole lot more resources. But when you’re trying to fight a war in Afghanistan, you’re trying to fight one in Iraq; you have very few resources left to put on the border. What we need are a whole lot of resources on the border.
Tavis: Obviously you’re opposed to the law, but how does one go about enforcing this law without, of necessity, without on demand engaging in racial profiling. Can you do that?
Dupnik: Well, you can if you’re very, very careful; you have nothing but solid law enforcement officers out there judiciously implementing the law. But the fact of the matter is if I were to take, say, 50 of my people – we have 500 cops in our organization – if I were to take 50 of them and say, “Go out there and get as many illegal immigrants as you can,” based on my experience what’s going to happen is they’re going to try to please the boss. They’re going to go out and a lot of them are going to profile.
Another thing, Tavis, if I might – another thing this law does is in my judgment it is anti-law enforcement, because it puts law enforcement officers in an impossible situation.
Currently we get sued if people think we’re profiling, and there are already a number of suits in another country up north on that basis. Now in this law, it has language that I’ve never seen in any other law in this country, and it says, “If any citizen believes that we are not enforcing the law, they can sue us.”
So now we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. They’ve put cops in an impossible situation.
Tavis: How much of this law is driven by politics, specifically the politics that find people running for office, running for reelection, where they’re being challenged by folk even to the right of where they are, and so they have to do this if they want to get reelected? Again, the question: How much of this is driven by politics?
Dupnik: I would say this, Tavis – certainly not more than 100 percent. (Laughter)
Tavis: I take it. I take it, Sheriff. I’m glad to have you on this program. He is Clarence Dupnik, sheriff of Pima County, which includes the city of Tucson, which happens to be the second-largest city in the state of Arizona. Sheriff Dupnik, thanks for your time. I’m glad to have you on, sir.

Dupnik: Thanks for inviting me.

Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 12:28 pm