| News |

One-Thousandth Illegal Immigrant Prosecuted Under State's Human Smuggling Law

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.


Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas touted his 1,000th conviction for an illegal immigrant under the state's three-year-old human-smuggling law.

The number was reached only because Thomas has prosecuted nearly 900 illegal immigrants for conspiring to smuggle themselves into the country. Lawmakers who wrote Arizona's human-smuggling law intended it only to aid law enforcement in prosecuting smugglers, but Thomas had different ideas.

Thomas saw the 2006 smuggling law as his vehicle to fulfill his 2004 campaign promise to do something about illegal immigration. Longstanding conspiracy statutes allowed a novel interpretation of the new law -- the ability to charge smugglees with smuggling, based on the concept that they conspired with the smugglers. Despite an outcry by supporters of illegal immigrants, the court system has backed Thomas on the issue at every turn.

Whether the result has been worth the time, effort and money -- hard to tell. Combined with Sheriff Joe Arpaio's sweeps for illegal immigrants, the county's approach has created more fear of deportation among immigrants -- but not enough to deter their desperate search for First-World employment.

The program hasn't been cheap, either: As New Times reported last July, the first 750 immigrants prosecuted under the law cost taxpayers $5 million in jail expenses alone. By the same formula, jailing the last 250 has cost the county an additional $1.7 million. Hundreds of the1,000 illegal immigrants processed this way have probably snuck back across the porous border.


Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.