Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Homeland Security Strips Arpaio of Immigration Powers

Photo courtesy Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Joe Arpaio

The Department of Justice’s report alleging civil rights abuses in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had immediate repercussions. Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, announced that her department had severed its cooperative agreements with the sheriff’s office. The decision strips Sheriff Joe Arpaio of the ability to enforce federal immigration laws.


With the termination of the agreement, Arpaio’s deputies will now not be able to question jail inmates on their immigration status. The announcement Thursday also restricted Arpaio’s access to Secure Communities. That’s an initiative that allows local police to share fingerprints with immigration authorities.

At a press conference, Arpaio warned that removing his powers would lead to a flood of illegal migrants into Arizona.

“Now, with the cancellation of this agreement, illegal criminal offenders arrested and brought into our jails will go undetected and ultimately dumped onto a street near you. For that, you can thank your federal government.”

Lydia Guzman is an activist with the Immigration Rights Coalition in Phoenix. She has protested the sheriff’s immigration sweeps of Phoenix communities since they began, claiming deputies were profiling Hispanics.

“What basically Napolitano has done is prevented Sheriff Joe Arpaio from practcing any immigration policies. He’s not equipped. He’s absued this and therefore, they took it away from him.”

Without the two agreements, Arpaio now cannot hold someone on a mere immigration charge for longer than 48 hours. At that point, the sheriff’s office will have to call DHS to take a suspect into custody. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office helped deport more than 26,000 illegal migrants between 2007 and 20-10.

Senior Field Correspondent Michel Marizco (Tucson) has reported along the Southwest border for the past decade, most of that in Arizona and Sonora. Before joining the Fronteras Desk, he produced stories in the field for CNN Madrid, the BBC, 60 Minutes Australia, and the CBC. His work now focuses on transnational trafficking syndicates, immigration, federal law enforcement and those weird, wild stories that make the U.S.-Mexico border such an inherently fascinating region. He is a contributing author on Shared Responsibility: U.S.-Mexico Policy Options for Confronting Organized Crime and an occasional writer at High Country News. In his spare time, he works with Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, assisting in the ongoing investigations of journalist killings in Mexico.