Saturday, October 10, 2009

Arizona Sheriff Vows to Enforce Immigration Law Whether ‘Feds’ Like It or Not

Written by Penny Starr
( – Calling himself “the poster boy” for those who support the enforcement of federal immigration laws, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he will continue to arrest individuals who are in the country illegally, even if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not renew the 287(g) agreement that the Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff’s Office has operated under for the past two years.

“We’ve been doing it for two years and have been very successful, but I guess they don’t like to enforce illegal immigration laws,” Arpaio told “[It] doesn’t make any difference. I’m still going to continue my programs, regardless of what the feds like or don’t like.”

Under that agreement, authorized in the 287(g) section of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, more than 100 officers and deputies with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office were trained and certified by ICE to enforce federal immigration laws in 2007.

Arpaio claims that ICE is renewing the part of the agreement that allows his personnel to check the immigration status of those booked into the county jail, but will not renew the portion that authorizes officers to make arrests based on immigration status.

“When we come across illegal aliens, we arrest them,” Arpaio said. “That’s the part they don’t like, and that’s the one they took away.”

But an ICE spokesman told that the 90-day window for state and local law enforcement agencies to review and sign new “standardized” agreements is Oct. 14 and that no decision will be made on those agreements until each has been reviewed by John Morton, assistant secretary of ICE.

“As Sheriff Arpaio knows, no decisions have been made on his 287(g) agreement,” Vincent Picard told “ICE is committed to smart and effective immigration enforcement, and we will review all of the new 287(g )Agreements at the conclusion of the 90 days.”

According to ICE officials, its Office of Professional Responsibility is also conducting audits of law enforcement agencies, including one done in July on the Maricopa County agency, a copy of which was obtained by

ICE spokesman Richard Rocha told that the agency doesn’t routinely release audits but that “several agencies have been audited” to date.

“It’s part of the general review process,” Rocha said. “It’s part of our office’s effort to make sure programs are working as effectively as possible and to identify any challenges that need to be addressed.”

Rocha was unable to say what agencies or exactly how many have been audited by his office.

Arpaio’s outspoken manner and the “crime suppression sweeps” his office has conducted in Maricopa County have been characterized by critics as racial profiling, and the Department of Justice launched an investigation into those charges earlier this year.

The ICE audit of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD), however, is generally positive, including the following remarks included in the executive summary of the report:

-- “Since February of 2007, the MCSO 287(g) program has processed more than 15,000 illegal aliens, saving ICE considerable resources.”

-- “The communications and working relationship between the OI (Office of Investigations), DRO (Office of Detention and Removal Operations) and MCSD (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department) are excellent.”

The summary said that most of the officers operating under the 287(g) program were assigned to either the Human Smuggling Unit (HSU), the Community Action Team (CAT) or the jail operations unit. It said the HSU and the jail operations were not mentioned in the current Memorandum of Agreement or MOA.

“The CAT Unit is a catchall term used for all 287(g) deputies, mainly patrol officers, who are not assigned to the HSU or to the jail component,” the summary states. “The CAT 287(g) patrol deputies rarely use their authority; most CAT officers rely on the jail officers to determine if someone who has been arrested for state violations may be an illegal alien. If the LEA encounter does not result in an arrest on State charges, the CAT 287(g) officers normally release the individual without attempting to determine if the subject may be an illegal alien.”

Arpaio claims that more than 30,000 individuals have been identified as illegal aliens since his department signed on with ICE in 2007.

He also claims that even without the 287(g), federal law allows state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws if probable cause exists.

Kris Kobach, former counsel to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and a professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, told that there is a federal statute that addresses immigration law and local law enforcement.

“Federal law does expressly authorize state and local police to make immigration arrests of previously deported felons who return to the United States and are in the country unlawfully,” Kobach said.

“That federal statute is found at 8 U.S.C. 1252c. In addition, as the U.S. Department of Justice officially recognized in 2002, state and local police possess the inherent authority to arrest illegal aliens and detain them briefly in order to transfer them to federal custody,” Kobach added.

“Those are two forms of arrest authority that Sheriff Arpaio possesses, apart from Section 287(g) authority,” Kobach said.

Arpaio said that the law usually isn’t enforced, but he would like to change that.

“You know what?” Arpaio said. “I’m going to start enforcing that law.”
By Penny Starr

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