Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's 287(g) Stalled: Board of Supervisors Says It'll Sign After Feds Sign

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors passed the buck back to the feds on Sheriff Joe's new 287(g) jails agreement this morning, authorizing Supes Chair Max Wilson to sign the document once Immigration and Customs Enforcement honcho John Morton autographs it.

Currently, only Arpaio and a deputy County Attorney have signed the authorization, which would allow federally trained MCSO deputies to act as immigration agents inside the jails. The lack of an ICE signature seemed to be the main sticking point for most of the Supes, save for Mary Rose Wilcox, who declared her opposition to the entire 287(g) program.

After listening to more than 20 speakers, pro and con, Wilcox immediately moved to table the item.

"We do not have the federal government before us saying they want us to push this agreement forward," she stated, noting the absence of Morton's signature and the fact that the feds had recently jerked Arpaio's 287(g) authority in the field.

Supervisor Don Stapley, the target of an MCSO investigation that most see as political retaliation by the Sheriff's Office, quickly seconded Wilcox's motion.

Before the motion to table could be voted on, Supervisor Andy Kunasek, a staunch Arpaio partisan, offered a substitute motion granting Chairman Wilson the authority to sign the new Memorandum of Agreement if it's approved by the feds. Supervisor Fulton Brock seconded it, and the vote was 3-2, with Wilcox and Stapley voting no.

ICE has not been commenting on the record about Arpaio's jails agreement, except to say that there will be no comment until after October 14, when all the new MOA's from the various participating law enforcement agencies around the country are in. Privately, sources tell me that Arpaio will definitely not get his field enforcement back and that there are two factions in DHS, one for and one against signing off on 287(g) in Arpaio's jails.

Before last week, Arpaio could boast more than 160 287(g)-trained gendarmes, the largest such force in the country authorized to enforce federal immigration law. But on Friday, Arpaio began squawking about the fact that ICE had pulled his authorization for field enforcement. He has since lashed out at the feds with all the ferocity of a wounded jackal, calling the entire department of DHS "liars" and vowing to continue his sweeps of Hispanic neighborhoods, even without 287(g) street authority.

In a press conference Tuesday, Arpaio promised to implement another drastic new tactic: deportation via the Sheriff's Office.

"If we determine they're illegal, we'll turn them over to ICE," Arpaio said of non-criminal aliens caught in his dragnets. "If ICE refuses to take 'em, then I'll take a little trip to the border."

The move would likely be illegal, considering that undocumented residents often have valid claims under immigration law for remaining in the country. It's also blatantly bigoted, as the only border Arpaio's talking about is the U.S.-Mexico border.  

There were some interesting comments from citizens leading up to the Supervisors' vote. Arguing against the agreement, Somos America President Lydia Guzman referenced a woman who had her arm broken while in the custody of MCSO, as 287(g) officers attempted to get her fingerprints on an immigration document.

MCSO Chief of Custody Jerry Sheridan urged the Supervisors to approve the agreement, noting that through it, 29,000 individuals had immigration detainers placed on them in MCSO's jails. He said the undocumented made up about 20 percent of the jail population. 

One older guy, a Joe supporter, drew murmurs when he claimed he was telling everyone he knew that, "if the Supervisors stop Sheriff Joe from doing his job, then get a weapon, because you're gonna need it."

Phoenix civil rights activist Salvador Reza, speaking in opposition to the agreement, urged the Supervisors to do the right thing. Then, looking at Don Stapley, he cracked, "Other than that, he [Arpaio] might come after you, remember that."

Several people laughed, including Stapley. Perhaps Dostoyevsky was right about suffering being ennobling.

BOS gadfly and frequent commenter Blue Crowley pointed out to the nativists in the audience that there were Mexicans in what is now the United States 100 years before the first English settlers. That's when some of the pro-Joe, anti-immigrant crowd began to shout, and had to be called to order by Chairman Wilson.

"The Mexicans were here before you," Crowley told them. "If you don't like it, leave."

Heh. To borrow a phrase from Old School, "You're my boy, Blue." 

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons