Joe Arpaio Tells Tale About Fooling the Feds; ICE Calls Sheriff's Bluff

Sheriff Joe Arpaio put out a press release today boasting about how he outsmarted Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which "refused" to take custody of two suspected illegal immigrants that deputies found in the desert yesterday.

In reality, ICE didn't refuse to take custody, and Arpaio's boys actually took the directive from ICE, not their revisionist-historian Sheriff.

In most cases, ICE picks up suspected illegal immigrants from local law enforcement is when the suspect is accused of committing a crime, or when they have recently crossed the border.

Arpaio, claiming ICE "refused" to take their two suspects, says this move "suggests ICE is ignoring their own policy."

An ICE spokeswoman sent a statement to New Times explaining that Border Patrol is the point-of-contact for reporting people found in the Gila Bend desert area who have recently crossed the border -- a concept ICE agents also explained to the MCSO representative who phoned in.

OK, so that's not quite refusing to pick up these people, but Arpaio's tale gets more egregious -- he says this was all his idea, and he'd just fooled the feds.

From MCSO's press release:

Sheriff's detectives were unable to gather enough evidence on the remaining two suspects to charge them with a state crime of human smuggling and attempted to turn the suspects over to ICE as has been the practice during the last six years. ICE agents, after asking a series of questions, refused to take the suspects from Sheriff's detectives.

"I expected that it would happen eventually, so I had a back up plan in place which was to take these illegal immigrants not accepted by ICE to the Border Patrol," Sheriff Arpaio said. So as directed by the Sheriff, last night deputies took the two suspects to the Border Patrol.

We asked an MCSO spokesman about this, and didn't get a response. After hearing back from ICE, we could understand why.

Here's the full statement from ICE:

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was contacted by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Sept. 20 regarding two individuals they had encountered in the vicinity of Gila Bend. ICE agents in Phoenix performed telephonic immigration screening on the subjects. When a check of DHS databases did not reveal criminal histories or prior immigration encounters, ICE agents referred the sheriff's office to the Ajo Station of the U.S. Border Patrol. Border Patrol is the primary DHS agency responding to recent border crossers encountered in the Gila Bend desert area. Agents from the Ajo Border Patrol station responded to the scene in Gila Bend and took custody of the individuals. ICE and Border Patrol work closely together to ensure a coordinated response to our state and local law enforcement partners, in accordance with our enforcement priorities."

On a side note, Arpaio claims this is the first time ICE has "refused" to take custody of suspected illegal immigrants, which would still not be true even if ICE had "refused."