Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is trying to figure out what to do with detained illegal immigrants that President Barack Obama won’t deport.
“We haven’t arrested anyone today, but it will be interesting when we arrest someone” and the federal government refuses to take custody, Arpaio told The Daily Caller during a June 26 interview.
“What will I do with them? Dump them on the street?…. Let them go?”
“I don’t like to do that [because] that’s amnesty… I’m going to see what other options I have,” said Arapio, the elected sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa County.
However, Arapio declined to describe his specific plans to The Daily Caller.
But he did suggest one idea. On several occasions, federal officials briefly have refused to pick-up illegals arrested by his Maricopa County deputies, but then reversed themselves when faced by public pressure, Arpaio said.
On June 25, Obama’s deputies in the Department of Homeland Security announced they won’t pick up and deport a detained illegal immigrant unless he or she is facing felony charges, or has recently crossed the border.
Federal officials also said they won’t pick up illegal immigrants for traffic violations, and suggested they would ignore the status of illegal immigrants who commit crimes that are not felonies.
Arizona has to develop a response, said Arpaio, because state law-enforcement picks up illegal immigrants while enforcing routine state laws. For example, he said, he’s detained 600 illegal immigrants who were illegally working for Arizona employers.
Those detentions and deportations are important because they free up jobs for actual Arizonans, he said.
“I’ve made 600 vacancies for U.S. citizens and residents to find a job,” he said. “I’m proud of that – the president should be too because I’m helping his unemployment numbers,” he added.
So far, people identified as illegal immigrants have been turned over to federal government‘s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency unless they were also charged with offenses in Arizona, he said.
“ICE has been taking all our people for years — we’ve had a couple of bumps in the road, but they’ve been doing it,” he said.
The federal agencies’ actions against Arizona are part of a three-year political campaign intended to boost Obama’s support among Latinos, Arpaio said. Those actions include officials’ press conferences that are coordinated with local pro-immigration groups, and a federal lawsuit claiming civil rights violations, he said.
The federal government has also cut off Arizona agencies from a computer network that allowed trained law-enforcement officers to verify the residency or the illegal status of detained people.
Arpaio’s office was denied access to the network last year. The local jail was cut off in December, just as senior appointees in Obama’s Department of Justice held an Arizona press conference to slam Arpaio’s enforcement of state laws.
The final cut-off came June 25, when DHS canceled its 287(g) agreement with seven Arizona law-enforcement agencies, and only a few hours after the Supreme Court’s Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled that the federal government can stop state agencies from enforcing state versions of federal immigration-related laws.
Arpaio may be helped by federal courts if the administration follows through with a threat to stop providing information about detainee’s status.
On Monday, an administration official suggested the federal government would not answer phone calls when Arpaio’s deputies call to ask if a suspected illegal is a resident or U.S. citizen.
But the relevant law says the federal government is obliged to tell state agencies about an individual’s residency status.
The federal government “shall respond to an inquiry by a Federal, State, or local government agency, seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within the jurisdiction of the agency for any purpose authorized by law, by providing the requested verification or status information,” according to a website run by Cornell University.
Whatever the federal government does to frustrate immigration enforcement in Arizona, Arpaio said, the number of illegal immigrants detained during routine law-enforcement ensures that “I’ve got to find a way around [because] we’re going to enforce state laws.”