Critics of Arpaio's Immigrant Policies Can Put Hope in Homeland Security Position for Napolitano

By Ray Stern

If you're depressed about the big win by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio because you don't like his policies on illegal immigration, here's something to hope for: Janet Napolitano as Homeland Security chief.

Governor Napolitano was picked by President-elect Barack Obama today to be on his White House transition team. That could mean her chances for a sweet Cabinet post are heating up.

One position already discussed for her is head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That could mean bad things for Arpaio's plan to keep rounding up Mexicans.

Napolitano's already shown she won't hesitate to pull the rug out from under Arpaio, with whom she disagrees on illegal immigration-enforcement tactics. In March, the governor pulled about $1.5 million in state funds from Arpaio following his high-profile sweeps for undocumented workers.

As Homeland Security boss, Napolitano would oversee several agencies including the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

It would be an easy matter for her, presumably, to cancel the 287(g) agreement between ICE and the Sheriff's Office that gives trained deputies the power of immigration agents.

Arpaio could still conduct his sweeps and immigrant busts based on state laws, like the employer sanctions law that led to the raid on Mesa's City Hall and library last month. But canceling the power of deputies on the street to enforce federal law would remove some of the sheriff's bite on the immigration issue and send a powerful message to law officers around the country that Arpaio's lead is not to be followed.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern