Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Jails Off Limits to Federal Immigration Detainees, John Morton Tells Bill Montgomery

In case Sheriff Joe Arpaio missed the gist of the fiat handed down Thursday by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ending Arpaio's 287(g) jails agreement, John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, doubled down on the dictate.

In a letter dated December 15 to County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the ICE honcho informed Montgomery that ICE is pulling all federal immigration detainees from Joe's jails.

Morton's missive states that in light of the U.S. Department of Justice's report on Arpaio's civil rights abuses, he's taking certain actions, "until MCSO addresses the findings...and corrects the violations."

These include:

Withdrawing any immigration detainees from facilities operated by MCSO;

Terminating MCSO's 287(g) program;

Restricting MCSO's access to Secure Communities technology; and,

Ceasing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) responses to MCSO traffic stops, civil infractions, or other minor offenses.

Morton explained, 

"These steps will ensure that ICE detainees are not subject to the violations detailed in the Department of Justice's report and that ICE's immigration enforcement programs are not inadvertently a part of constitutional abuses..."

You can read the letter, here.

This is where the Michelin meets the blacktop. The announcement represents an immediate, tangible fallout from Arpaio's racial-profiling ways. And we don't even have to wait for a DOJ lawsuit. 

And yet the inconvenient question remains...

Why did ICE play patty-cake with the MCSO for more than three years as the DOJ's civil investigation was ongoing, and in doing so, dirty its hands with the very same civil rights violations the DOJ today denounced?

Truth is, Nappy and ICE and DHS would love to keep 287(g) in Joe's jails, even now. 'Cause that's where the warm bodies are -- those belonging to the undocumented. 

See, Arpaio's gulags are the repository of accused inmates for the entire county. There, Joe's cross-trained 287(g) officers have been allowed to play ICE agent, picking through detainees, hunting illegal immigrants, who were then often turned over to ICE.

Thus, ripping up the feds' 287(g) agreement with the MCSO is as much a loss for ICE as it is for Arpaio. 

ICE and DHS are all about numbers, numbers that prove their worth to U.S. Senators and Representatives, the ones who approve their budgets.

So you can bet Nappy's not happy having to make this move eliminating Arpaio's 287(g) in the jails.

We often assume "the feds" to be a monolithic entity. In reality, agencies compete for resources and they often have conflicting agendas.

And what's good for the U.S. Constitution, for an end to racial profiling and for the further boxing-in of Sheriff Joe is not necessarily good for ICE or DHS.

Not by a long shot. 

Today, Joe lost a battle. But so did Napolitano. 

Was she outflanked by the DOJ with this move? 

Not that it matters, of course. As long as she and her paisan lost.

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