Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said his idea has merit, but he will not press Arizona to challenge a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that makes it illegal for schools to check students’ citizenship.
Still, Dupnik said, checking citizenship when students enroll would remove a flaw in the nation’s border security and could deter immigrants from crossing the border illegally.
Such a move would eliminate some of the area’s social woes, he said, adding that the South, Southwest and West sides of Tucson have prominent social problems that can be attributed to illegal immigration.
Dupnik, citing unnamed sources, pointed specifically to the Sunnyside Unified School District, where he said as many as 40 percent of the students are illegal immigrants.
Sunnyside district spokeswoman Monique Soria said that “the district, by law, does not ask for legal status, and we do not have data on that.
“We would be breaking the law if we did ask,” she said.
Failing schools, high dropout rates and gang affiliation seem to be high in those areas, Dupnik said.
“Sunnyside is, I think, the area where the problem is most acute,” he said.
Dupnik stressed that he is not encouraging school districts to break the law.
Dupnik’s opinion arose when he attended a hearing on border violence held by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he said.
“I just brought up an issue that was not being dealt with that I felt should be dealt with,” Dupnik said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s a subject that nobody wants to talk about,” he said. “I merely aired an idea. I’m not on a platform. I don’t have a plan. I don’t have a strategy.”
Dupnik said he will not conduct immigration sweeps at area schools.
“I find that thought repulsive and repugnant,” he said.
Nor will the Sheriff’s Department stage similar sweeps anywhere in the community, he said.
“We will never do that as long as I am sheriff here.”