Monday, May 2, 2011

The Chandler Roundup

An officer searched someone during the 1997 Chandler Roundup (photo courtesy of

Shopping center in downtown Chandler on Chandler Ave. during the Chandler Roundup (photo by Erin Seivley, April 2011)
(courtesy of Google Maps)
The Chandler Roundup occurred in the area surrounding Arizona Ave. from Ray Road and the 202 to the north and south, and Alma School Road and McQueen Blvd. to the east and west. (See above map)
“The girls pointed down the street and said that the officers told us to keep our birth certificates with us or they will send us back to Mexico. Both girls kept saying, ‘Mom, we don’t know Mexico.”
 - Quote from the “Results of the Chandler Survey” written by the Office of the Attorney General Grant Woods, 1997

On July 27th, 2007, 35 officers from the Chandler Police Department in conjunction with five Border Patrol officers started a joint effort to reduce crime in the downtown area of the city by asking for identification from anyone that looked “Mexican” or of “Mexican descent.” The officers stopped people walking to their cars, shopping at the local shopping mall, getting gas, forced their way into their homes, and even stopped children on their way home from school.

A day prior to what later has been termed the “Chandler Roundup,” Chandler City Council members were informed of the police department’s idea to reengage “Operation Restoration” which had been started in 1995. The city of Chandler was one of the fastest growing in the United States due to a booming suburban community at that time and 19.3% of the residents were Latinos. The Latinos emigrated here from Mexico to take advantage to the growing population and job opportunities in factories such as Motorola and Intel. This operation was started to redevelop older neighborhoods, which incidentally had the highest percentage of Mexican Americans, immigrants, and primarily low-income families. The city council felt that crime had been increasing in the city wanted to get rid of this issue to encourage white businesses and family to move into the area. City officials approved the roundup after less than two minutes of discussion with the police chief and without specific details relating to its scope. The Attorney General had not approved this plan and the police officers had no training in immigration laws and procedures.

In a review done by the Office of the Attorney General after the roundup in 1997, it was discovered that the police were racially profiling the people they questioned and asked for identification from. The office found dispatch tapes from those five days including discussions from officers saying that “They were looking for dark-skinned workers speaking Spanish (Romero)” and that “Mexican appearance” was the primary and sole purpose for stops. The officers also had already partially filled out the identification paper work with most of the boxes having “Mexico and/or Mexican” typed into them. The officers had no probable cause for stopping most of the people they questioned or going into their homes. The officers also did not often fill out the correct paperwork, or any at all. The police and Border Patrol officers asked people a range of different questions, from asking for identification, to drivers licenses, to green cards, to work visas, to passports, etc. They also spoke Spanish to some of the people they questioned. These people later reported feeling like this was a trap and also reported speaking back to the officers in English as though to not give it away that they were Hispanic or of Mexican descent. Many of the people stopped were U.S. citizens and legal residents.

432 undocumented Mexicans were arrested and deported during those five days. Although formal reviews were conducted of the actions performed by the officers, no one was ever punished legally. No one in city council nor were the police and Border patrol held accountable for their actions even after the formal review by the Office of the Attorney General.  A report from Cleveland State University reviewing the roundup stated, “Poor and working class Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants already know that they can not move freely without being identified as suspicious in upper and upper middle-class neighborhoods throughout the Phoenix area unless they are in uniforms as gardeners, construction laborers, kitchen workers, maids, and other low-wage jobs.” The roundup not only reestablished this fact, but also created the third border in a larger way by saying they were no longer safe to walk to their cars, get gas, or sit in their homes without being questioned about their citizenship. Authors Moctezuma and Davis defined the third border as discrimination against racial minorities at the actual border (1st) or in certain private areas (2nd), but in public spaces such as malls and gas stations. The Chandler Roundup is also another example in the history of the United States of “non-white” people being questioned on their citizenship and treated without rights just based on the fact that they are of a “different” race.

- Erin Seivley and Zack Wallace


Moctezuma, A., & Davis, M. (1999). Policing the Third Border. Colorlines, 160-163.

Romero, M. (2005). Violation of Latino Civil Rights Resulting from INS and Local Police's Use of Race, Culture and Class Profiling: The Case of the Chandler Roundup in Arizona. Cleveland State Law Review , 52 (1 & 2).

The Arizona Republic. (2010, July 28). Immigration and Arizona: A timeline in photos. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from

Welch, D. (2007, August 29). Scars slow to heal. East Valley Tribune , pp. 1-2.

Woods, O. o. (1997). Results of the Chandler roundup. Chandler: State of Arizona.

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