Citizen Staff Writer
DAVID L. TEIBEL
Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, said he would not apologize for saying last week as many as 40 percent of Sunnyside Unified School District students are illegally in the United States and that much South Side crime is linked to illegal immigration.
The statements led to a letter from 10 politicians, all Democrats, as is Dupnik, demanding the sheriff apologize for his remarks.
Dupnik said his remarks were an effort to point out “reality.”
As far as apologizing for his remarks, Dupnik said, “No. Who am I supposed to apologize to, illegal aliens?”
Dupnik’s remarks hurt many Hispanic U.S. citizens who live on the South, Southwest and West sides of Tucson, said Eva Dong, a member of the board of the Sunnyside School District.
After being told Dupnik would not apologize, Dong said she was not sure an apology would mean anything.
“I think that unless he understands how we felt as legal citizens, living in the community, then I don’t know what the apology would mean,” she said.
Dong would like an apology from the sheriff, “but only if he understands how his words affected us.”
Dong drew comfort from Dupnik’s remarks that deputies’ priority isn’t enforcing immigration laws..
“As a community, we have always felt we need to work with police, with deputies,” Dong said.
Regarding illegal immigrants in Sunnyside schools, Dupnik said he was given the 40 percent figure by “a number of people, including teachers and others” in the school district.
As for crime on the South, Southwest and West sides of the city, Dupnik would not say how he knows much of it stems from illegal immigration, saying only, “You know that’s true.”
Dupnik said a number of “magnets” bring illegal immigrants to the United States, including citizenship for children born here, free medical services, social services and a free education.
“We need to mitigate as many of those magnets as we can,” he said.
Dupnik said he first made the immigration remarks last month at a hearing on border violence held by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Last week’s news conference, he said, was an attempt to clarify those remarks.
Dupnik said his remarks were not intended to be anti-Hispanic or to show any prejudice against Hispanics.
The sheriff long has said his deputies would not enforce immigration laws, which he said is a federal responsibility.
He has said the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has neither the resources nor the interest to enforce federal law.
Dupnik also has said it’s more important to foster trust in the immigrant community so it’s more likely they will report crimes as opposed to a community reluctant to call law officers out of fear of deportation.
Dupnik last week suggested challenging a U.S. Supreme Court decision that forbid schools from checking the citizenship of students, citing improved border security if the ruling were overturned.