Ramping up the pressure on ICE, the Obama administration and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the American Civil Liberties Union has just issued a press release demanding that Arpaio be stripped of all of his 287(g) authority, including that in the jails.
In some ways, this is no surprise, as the ACLU is a frequent critic of both the sheriff and 287(g). Recently, the ACLU signed a letter to President Obama along with 520 other organizations asking for an end to the program, which turns beat cops into immigrantion agents. And the ACLU is part of the big racial-profiling lawsuit in federal court against Joe, Melendres v. Arpaio.
Still, civil rights groups and pro-immigrant groups have shifted from the initial flush of slight victory when they learned that Arpaio had lost his street authority under 287(g), to the recognition that they may have Arpaio on the ropes.
Though Arpaio has signed a 287(g) memorandum allowing officers in his jails to act as immigration enforcers, DHS has not signed off on the memorandum, nor has the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted on it, though it is on the BOS agenda for tomorrow.
Also, Arpaio is openly defiant of DHS and ICE, saying that nothing will stop his anti-immigrant sweeps and raids, which he plans to continue under state law. Arpaio's said he will deport non-criminal aliens himself, driving them to the border, if need be, in clear violation of the new Memorandum of Agreement with ICE.
"Notwithstanding his comments, Sheriff Arpaio is required to abide by the law and the limitations of any new agreement," said ACLU Immigrant Rights Project attorney Omar Jadwat in the release. "But the fundamental issue is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shouldn't enter into a 287(g) agreement with Maricopa County at all.
"MCSO embodies all of the problems with the 287(g) program, including racial profiling, haphazard and counterproductive arrests, declines in public safety and insufficient federal oversight. The federal government should terminate the program in Maricopa County and nationwide."
Alessandra Soler Meetz, Arizona's ACLU director, concurred with Jadwat in the statement, saying, "Simply put, DHS must end the 287(g) program now."
Interestingly, the Arizona Republic's JJ Hensley just wrote a preview of Arpaio's 2:30 p.m. press conference where he says Arpaio plans to "combat" the agreement. Hensley treats the jails agreement like a done deal.
However, on this story, Hensley's main source is Arpaio himself. Hensley never mentions that ICE head John Morton has not signed the new agreement. He also states that Arpaio "signed the jail authorization on Friday," when Arpaio's signature on the document is clearly dated September 30. (See page five, here.)
Why am I not at the 2:30 press conference myself? The sheriff's office maintains a standing order not to allow New Times reporters into press conferences held on county property.
MCSO spokesman Brian Lee e-mailed this to me earlier this morning:
"I am sorry Mr. Lemons you are correct. You will not be granted access into the news conference."
Which is what happens when you ask uncomfortable questions of Sheriff Joe.