What’s Law Got To Do With It? Sheriff Arpaio Defies New DHS Enforcement Guidelines

Written by on August 7, 2009 in Detention, Enforcement, Interior Enforcement with 3 Comments
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Photo by swirlingthoughts.

The Department of Homeland Security recently standardized its 287(g) immigration enforcement agreements with local law enforcement, which allows specially trained local enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws. Among the new DHS rules, local law enforcement must now prioritize immigrants with serious criminal records, rather than spend scant time and resources going after undocumented immigrants who are charged with no other crime. These new enforcement provisions, however, leave long-time immigration enforcement abuser, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, with some important decisions to make.

When Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced changes to the standardized 287(g) agreements back in early July, she gave 90 days for the 66 local police agencies who currently have Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs) with ICE, to either sign the new MOA or terminate the partnership. DHS has the ability to terminate or suspend the MOA with local police agencies who choose not to follow the new rules.

Arpaio—known for his military-style immigration sweeps in which he “randomly” stops drivers who “look undocumented”—now has to decide whether he wants to continue his participation with the federal program under the new guidelines.

We don’t know what Arpaio will do. What we do know is that, true to form, stick-em-up Sheriff Arpaio doesn’t plan on stopping, no matter what DHS says. Surprise! Surprise! In an article printed in the Arizona Republic this week, America’s “toughest sheriff” shrugged off DHS’s directive with flagrant disregard for the community he claims to protect.

“I know one decision: I’m not stopping. Nothing is going to change. They can keep trying to come after me. They can keep trying to restrict me with more policies.”

If he does sign the new MOA, DHS must step up its monitoring, oversight, and supervision of the agreement—and must be prepared to act decisively if Arpaio fails to meet his obligations.

While DHS’s new MOAs still fall short, this process of revisiting the MOAs provides DHS with a real opportunity to monitor how the program is really being implemented on the ground. DHS must take this opportunity to take the reins and put an end to Arpaio’s antics and those of any others who use Federal enforcement authority to terrorize immigrant communities and pursue political gains to the detriment of community safety.

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