The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has stripped Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of his authority to arrest suspected illegal immigrants based solely on their immigration status. But Arpaio said Tuesday he plans to continue his controversial “crime suppression operations."
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has stripped Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of his authority to arrest suspected illegal immigrants based solely on their immigration status.
But Arpaio said Tuesday he plans to continue his controversial “crime suppression operations,” despite DHS’s decision to not renew an agreement that would allow the sheriff to continue immigration enforcement on the streets.
“It’s all politics,” said Arpaio, who spent much of an afternoon news conference Tuesday wagging his finger, waving his arms and snarling at reporters.
Arpaio will have some immigration powers under an agreement signed Friday. His 60 detention officers in the county jails will still have the authority to check the immigration status of people they book.
But the agreement that would allow street patrols was signed Sept. 21 and then rescinded, and a top-level DHS official from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs personally told him the federal agency wasn’t going to accept the agreement, but he “didn’t really give a good reason,” Arpaio said.
“We’re being looked at by the Justice Department and all that.”
Arpaio said he believes DHS made the changes to stop his “crime suppression operations,” which are saturation patrols in designated areas where deputies would find illegal immigrants by stopping them for traffic infractions and minor violations.
The Department of Justice and other federal agencies are investigating the sheriff’s office on accusations of racial profiling during the crime suppression operations.
In a Pulitzer Prize-winning series published in July 2008, the Tribune found the sheriff’s office’s illegal-immigration sweeps violated federal regulations intended to prevent racial profiling. The five-part series also found that the sweeps diverted resources from core law-enforcement functions, which in some cases caused response times to increase.
Vinnie Picard, a spokesman for the Phoenix office of ICE, said his agency won’t comment on pending agreements until after Oct. 14, the deadline for signing them.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on accepting the jail portion of the agreement Wednesday.
“If they (the board) don’t sign it, there will be no more 287(g) in the jail,” Arpaio said.
Under 287(g) agreements, ICE trains local police and detention officers on immigration law and gives them access to immigration databases.
Arpaio said he will be able to still conduct the crime sweeps under state human smuggling laws and an obscure federal law that allows local police to arrest illegal immigrants.
“Now I’m not under their control,” Arpaio said. “Nothing changes; that’s the irony of all of this.”
He will conduct one in two weeks “with a new twist.” Arpaio did not go into further detail about what that means.
Arpaio first signed a 287(g) agreement in 2007 and since then dozens of agencies throughout the nation have entered into similar agreements.
Arpaio said ICE conducted an audit of his office’s use of the program, but DHS refused to release it.
Arpaio said his office managed to get a copy recently through the “back door.”
A summary of the audit said the working relationship between the sheriff’s office and ICE was good, and there were no deficiencies found after a review of case files.
“It came out perfect,” said Arpaio, citing that as the reason DHS refused to release the audit.
DHS, headed by former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, announced July 10 the agency was standardizing the agreements and giving police that were operating under previous agreements the option to either sign new ones or lose their authority.
The new agreements specify the priorities of DHS, one of which is to go after “criminal aliens” — illegal immigrants who have committed a state crime.
The local agencies would also have to “pursue all criminal charges that originally caused the offender to be taken into custody.”
DHS said that provision was included because there were concerns that police were using minor infractions to get illegal immigrants deported.