It's official: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office detention officers no longer have the authority to act as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in MCSO jails -- as was announced during an overly dramatic badge-piling ceremony at the sheriff's training facility this afternoon.
That's right, rather than simply collecting the detention officers' ICE badges, throwing them into a box, and sending them back to ICE, Sheriff Joe Arpaio alerted the media so they could watch his DOs walk single-file past a desk and drop their individual badges into a pile...as the cameras of Phoenix's Fourth Estate rolled.
Arpaio says 92 of his detention officers have officially been stripped of their 287(g) authority and will no longer check the immigration statuses of people brought into MCSO jails -- per the request of Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano.
As you probably know, Napolitano stripped Arpaio's boys in beige of their ICE authority following a scathing report from the Department of Justice that alleges the MCSO is guilty of the worst racial-profiling practices in U.S. history.
"It's a slap in the face," Arpaio says of Napolitano's decision to revoke his officers' authority.
After stripping MCSO officers of their 287(g) authority, ICE vowed to send 50 federal agents to Arpaio's jails to do the job MCSO detention officers have been doing since 2007. According to the sheriff, he only knows of one federal agent who's currently at the jails screening for illegal immigrants.
"We'll see how long it takes 'em to get 50 [ICE agents] across the country," he grumbles. "I'll be watching."
Since his officers had their 287(g) authority stripped, Arpaio says the lone ICE agent responsible for screening for illegal immigrants has only identified three illegal immigrants since Thursday, when Naploitano revoked the MCSO's ICE authority. When the sheriff's officers were running the show, they identified an average of 15.5 per day, according to the sheriff.
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"[The feds] made statements that they're not going to pick up illegal aliens on the streets [who are arrested for minor crimes]," Arpaio says. "I get the impression that [the feds don't want to deport illegal immigrants arrested for a minor crime]. I think that's going into the amnesty type situation.
"We'll see how it works when we come across someone in a traffic stop and it's a minor crime...and we call ICE. Are they gonna come out and pick them up, like they have done in the past? Or are they gonna say 'sheriff, we don't have the time...let 'em go?'"
As for the DOJ's ultimatum that Arpaio decide whether he plans to cooperate with the feds by January 4, the sheriff says he has every intention of cooperating, and that he'll probably "listen to them for 60 days."
If he doesn't like what the DOJ has to say during that 60-day period, however, he says he's prepared to take on the federal government in court (the DOJ has threatened to file a lawsuit if Arpaio refuses to make the changes they request).