We realize Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immediate reaction to any possible challenge to his authority is to defiantly promise he will not bend one inch. But will a prideful Arpaio truly ignore an opportunity to review the last two years of his office’s immigration enforcement and refine his strategies to focus on what seems to work while stopping one practice that’s a horrible waste of tax dollars?
Arpaio stood before the cameras and microphones Tuesday to decry a pending change in the 287(g) agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which offers sheriff’s deputies access to federal immigration databases and grants specific powers to enforce federal laws. The sheriff acted as if Homeland Security was attempting to strip away much of his authority and completely undermine his efforts.
However, the new 287(g) agreement does no such thing, as Tribune writer Gary Grado reported this week. The sheriff’s office will retain its ability to check the immigration status of people arrested and booked into county jails. Nearly 30,000 illegal immigrants have been identified in this fashion since 2007, making a legitimate dent in the number of border-crossers who managed to avoid federal detection.
But the sheriff’s office no longer will have direct authority to search for illegal immigrants through street patrols or the so-called “crime suppression” sweeps. Other Valley media have reported that only a couple hundred illegal immigrants have been caught in this manner, or approximately one immigrant for every sheriff’s deputy assigned to participate in a series of such sweeps over the past two years.
Arpaio insists he still can seek to identify illegal immigrants during street patrols under another section of federal law. But the Arizona Capitol Times’ Yellow Sheet Report said Wednesday the sheriff cited a federal statute that has nothing to do at all with local law enforcement. This is just one sign that seeking to prop up the crime suppression sweeps will be enormously costly to taxpayers but will accomplish little.
Arpaio can’t be compelled to abandon immigration enforcement. The sheriff has other tools for deputies on the street, namely state laws against human smuggling and new sanctions for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. But the sheriff shouldn’t stand stuck in the mud when adapting to valid criticism would shore up his own budget and would be far more likely to make a difference.