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5.3 Mohave County - Sheriff Sheahan says he supports immigration law SB1070

Tom Sheahan, Mohave County Sheriff, says he supports the illegal immigration law SB1070. The new law that is causing controversy across the country is set to go into effect by August. The law requires authorities to determine a person's immigration status if there is a "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally.

Critics say the law could lead to racial profiling, although a provision of the law says law enforcement agencies cannot stop or question someone solely on the basis of race, color or national origin. This means that an individual must be stopped for a primary offense, like the seat belt law, before authorities can ask for a person's immigration status.

Sheahan said thats the way deputies operate anyway. The Sheriff's Office has also had a policy in effect since 2001 that prohibits deputies from using race or any other such characteristic alone in deciding whether to stop, question, search or arrest a person.

Sheahan echoes others that the new law will provide law enforcement with another tool in the fight against illegal immigration in the state. He said the federal government's failure to secure the border has resulted in a "revolving door" that is exploited by illegal immigrants.

"We arrest someone, turn them over to Border Patrol, and six months later they're back," Sheahan said.

In 2008, around 300 illegal immigrants were arrested. In 2009, the number was about half that. The majority are arrested after traffic violations or when they have committed a criminal act.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has said he will not enforce the law, while Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he supports it.

The law also makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for someone to knowingly hide, harbor, transport or entice an illegal immigrant to come to Arizona.

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