By: Rebecca Larsen
The man who likes to call himself “America’s toughest sheriff,” Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., is planning a Friday showdown with the feds.
The sheriff has announced he will defy the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by doing a street sweep for illegal immigrants one day after the expiration of the agreement that has permitted him to conduct such operations for the past three years. The sheriff has said he expects the deal not to be extended, though federal officials have remained publicly noncommittal.
Deputies, and Sheriff Arpaio, will stake out an intersection somewhere in the Phoenix metro area to stop cars for traffic violations – everything from speeding to broken taillights to driving while intoxicated. Both drivers and passengers will be held if deputies determine that they are illegal immigrants – regardless of how minor was the initial infraction.
Sheriff Arpaio is charging ahead because he claims he has jurisdiction under a 1996 federal law allowing police to detain someone briefly if that person could be in the country illegally.
“We will call Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] to see if they will take them from us,” Sheriff Arpaio told The Washington Times. “And if they tell me to let them go, I guess I’ll have to transport them myself to the border [about 175 miles] and turn them over to the Border Patrol.”
Sheriff Arpaio, 77 but looking 10 years younger, has been shaking up Maricopa County for 17 years, and he’s not ready to quiet down: “I just got re-elected last year, but I’m going to run again, and I’ve already raised a lot of money. They’ll have to put up with me for another seven years.”
With customary bravado, he will announce on his Web site the Friday sweep’s location shortly before it happens, enough time so protesters can show up: “The same ones who are out in front of my building every day calling me Hitler and a Nazi. I’m the poster boy for the open borders crowd.”
“We’re doing it the day after Oct. 15, in order to play a little game with them,” Sheriff Arpaio said. He said he expects to use a “new secret weapon,” but declined to say what it is.
Oct. 15 is the day he expects to find out whether federal officials will approve his pending application for a renewal of the contract with ICE to detain illegal immigrants. In the past few weeks, the sheriff has been loudly complaining that the contract will no longer allow street sweeps of the kind he plans Friday, potentially angering federal authorities, who still have the power not to extend the agreement at all.
For the past three years, Sheriff Arpaio has been working under what is known as a 287(g) contract, named for the section of a federal immigration-reform law that established the program in 1996.
That law allows for partnerships that permit local law-enforcement agencies to perform immigration functions traditionally reserved for the federal government – such as holding all illegal immigrants when arrested and bringing them to jail until they can be turned over to ICE for deportation. If immigrants are convicted, they serve their time and are then deported. If they are acquitted or charges are dropped, they are held until they can be deported.
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