PHOENIX, Arizona — A proposed agreement, scheduled to be voted on today by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, may offer a glimpse of the federal government’s plans to modify a widely criticized program that authorizes local police to enforce U.S. immigration laws.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to the press in Phoenix as Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas looks on. Photo: Valeria Fernandez
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has the largest force in the nation authorized under the 287(g) program. Under the existing agreement sheriff’s deputies were able to question people about their immigration status during traffic stops and other types of police investigations. The new contract limits deputies under the command of Sheriff Joe Arpaio to identify undocumented immigrants only within the county jails.
Recently, the Southwest Border Taskforce, an advisory group set up by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, recommended that the 287(g) program be scaled back, limiting its use to identifying undocumented migrants in jails.
In July, Napolitano announced a review of all 287(g) agreements across the nation. The new contracts would focus on the apprehension of immigrants with a criminal record, she said.
The Department of Homeland Security gave all 66 participating agencies a 90-day-period to review the new contracts and sign them. But DHS hasn’t confirmed whether it will continue working with Arpaio in any fashion.
“We’re still in the signing window process,” said Vincent Picard a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “No final decisions have been made.”
DHS has until October 14th –the end of the 90 day review period- to decide whether Arpaio will retain any immigration powers at all. But that hasn’t stopped the sheriff or his critics from renewing their war of words over the treatment of undocumented immigrants.
“They just don’t want this sheriff to investigate and arrest illegal aliens,” said Arpaio during a press conference yesterday. (more…)