The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted today to decline $1.6 million in state funding designed to help Sheriff Joe Arpaio target illegal immigrants.
Of all the tit-for-tat power plays going on in recent weeks, this one is a real shot through the hull. Suddenly, Arpaio's immigration enforcement tactics are being pulled into the squabble, even though three of four Supervisors who voted for postponing acceptance of the funds for 30 days are Republican. Supervisor Andy Kunasek voted to accept the money, (essentially, by voting against postponement).
Considering the hullabullo created when former Governor Janet Napolitano took the funds away from Arpaio and gave them to the state Department of Public Safety, this development could have ramifications in both county and state politics. In any case, it seems likely to force various factions in the immigration debate to choose sides -- if they haven't already -- in the county fight. For starters, the county's move is sure to annoy Mesa Republican Russell Pearce, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee -- an important role in which he helps oversee the county's budget.
If the intent was to strike back at Arpaio for the sheriff's multi-pronged county investigation, though, the Supervisors may have erred in deciding to take up the issue in 30 days instead of voting immediately to refuse the funds.
Anti-illegal-immigration forces, led by Arpaio and Pearce, will undoubtedly put plenty of pressure on the Board to accept the funds -- and they'll look weak if they fold now.
Here's a written statement from Andy Kunasek:
"I have always supported the 287g program and I intended to do so again today.
Having said that, I, like the Sheriff, welcome the review by the federal government.
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After all, this is really a federal program.
They have constantly stated on the record that the Sheriff performs his duties consistent with the law.
Should they find something different, I have every confidence that the appropriate adjustments to the program will be made.
Until that time, I see no reason to 'rush to judgment' and cut the program off prematurely."