OCTOBER 07, 2009
A year after praising a successful Arizona sheriff’s immigration enforcement program the Department of Homeland Security has killed it amid complaints from politically-connected Latino advocates who accuse officers of racial discrimination.
Known as 287(g), the federal program trains local police officers nationwide to enforce immigration laws. The partnership has been effective in drastically reducing violent crime in local communities and aiding in the deportation of thousands of criminal illegal aliens who would otherwise fall through the cracks.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department is the biggest law enforcement agency to participate in 287(g) and its immigration sweeps—requested by residents and business owners alike—quickly earned national attention. They have also cleaned up the sprawling Phoenix metropolitan area by restoring law and order in a large business district (36th & Thomas) rife with solicitation, trespassing, loitering and public health ordinance violations created by day laborers.
In dozens of cases Maricopa Sheriff’s deputies arrested violent illegal immigrants with criminal records who should have been deported long ago. Instead they were protected by officials in Phoenix, which has long offered illegal aliens sanctuary and forbids its police department from inquiring about suspects’ immigration status.
It was actually Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon who first complained about racial profiling in the county sheriff’s operation and demanded an investigation from the Justice Department, accusing deputies of “discriminatory harassment” and “improper” stops, searches and arrests. Gordon further accused Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio of infringing on the civil rights of residents and putting their well-being at risk.
Within weeks, immigration rights groups joined the discrimination bandwagon and a federal civil rights investigation subsequently ensued. The Justice Department has even brought back deported illegal aliens to the U.S. to be witnesses against the Maricopa Sheriff’s Department. The feds claim they’re investigating serious allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures on the part of deputies and their elected leader Arpaio.
Stripping the Maricopa Sheriff’s Department of its immigration enforcement privileges is simply part of the Obama Administration’s larger effort to weaken the successful 287(g) program nationwide. To obtain details relating to the incomprehensible changes, Judicial Watch recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security because the agency has exceeded the deadline on a July public records request.
Up until recently, Homeland Security officials praised the 287(g) program, especially Maricopa County’s operation. In fact, a 2008 federal audit determined that the sheriff’s immigration enforcement program was “excellent” and that the conduct and performance of deputies was professional and meeting the program’s requirements. The audit further said that Maricopa’s program had processed more than 15,000 illegal aliens, saving Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “considerable resources.”
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