July 12, 2019 / Modified jul 12, 2019 4:59 p.m.

Leaving the monastery, sanctuary city initiative, seizing drugs

Plus, hearing from independent Tucson mayoral candidate Ed Ackerley.

A shelter for asylum seekers at Tucson’s Benedictine Monastery will see operations move locations in the coming weeks to a former detention center for juveniles. With development slated to begin at the monastery soon, Pima County announced plans to lease space to Catholic Community Services, which has operated the monastery shelter since January for asylum seekers in transit through Tucson.

This week, Catholic Community Services’ Teresa Cavendish and Diego Piña Lopez joined Lorraine Rivera to discuss the shelter’s evolution and the transition to the former juvenile jail.

“I think I’m less concerned about the optics because we already have the vision in place. We know what this will look like inside,” Cavendish said. “We were very fortunate to have the monastery, which kind of had magic in its walls. But really, it’s about this effort, the volunteers and the work itself. We can transform and uplift any space we go into.”

An initiative to make Tucson a sanctuary city is likely to appear on the ballot this November. Supporters said they submitted nearly twice the number of signatures required. The People's Defense Initiative is leading the campaign, motivated in part by an opposition to SB 1070. The law was signed in 2010 and requires law enforcement to verify a person’s immigration status in certain circumstances. Zaira Livier, executive director of the People's Defense Initiative, explained what becoming a sanctuary city would mean for undocumented immigrants in the community.

“We put in as many roadblocks as we possibly can. We squeeze SB 1070 to its limit to make it safer and more secure for undocumented migrants to come into contact with police,” Livier said.

The initiative could face legal challenges, according to a January memo from Tucson city attorney Mike Rankin. The memo details potential conflicts with SB 1070, which could possibly trigger another Arizona statute SB 1487. Under the statute, if the attorney general determines a city ordinance breaks state law, the state can suspend its shared revenue with that city unless it repeals or changes the ordinance in question. Livier disputes the premise outlined in Rankin’s memo.

“This is a citizen-led initiative which has its own special protections, and 1487 is absolutely silent on citizen-led initiatives,” Livier said. “We’re absolutely sure that we wrote this initiative to withstand a challenge. The state cannot just pull their funding.”

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department works year-round to prevent illegal drugs from hitting the streets. Since January, the sheriff’s department has had a hand in seizing drugs with a street value worth nearly $3.5 million. It includes everything from heroin to meth and fentanyl pills. Lorraine Rivera saw their efforts firsthand and rode with the department’s Border Interdiction Unit.

After seeing how the Pima County Sheriff’s Department interdicts narcotics on a regular basis, Arizona 360 wanted a better understanding of some of the lasting challenges involved with staying ahead of issues that stem from drug abuse. We brought together PCSD Capt. Jeffrey Palmer and Stacy Cope with Sonoran Prevention Works, an organization that helps people with substance abuse.

“We are making gains, but it is a cat-and-mouse game. We are in the interdiction business and the drug cartels and distributors are in the business of not being caught,” Palmer said.

“If it’s a cat-and-mouse game on supply, then we should be talking about demand. Why are people using drugs? Why are people selling drugs? And if we want to see real change in that then we have to have other options for people to make money, have other options for people to deal with their trauma,” Cope said. “These are not overnight, easy solutions.”

Arizona 360 interviewed all four Tucson mayoral candidates who qualified for the ballot. Candidates include Democrats Randi Dorman, Steve Farley and Regina Romero on the primary ballot, one of whom will face independent Ed Ackerley in November's general election. This week, Lorraine Rivera sat down with Ed Ackerley, a longtime advertising executive in Tucson who is making his first run for office.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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