Maricopa County attorney says new DHS policies will not change local immigration enforcement tactics

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said the Department of Homeland Security’s recent memoranda regarding immigration would not change the operations of local law enforcement. (Photo by Veronica Acosta/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration enforcement memoranda released earlier this week will not change how local law enforcement officers enforce immigration in the near future.

Memoranda from the DHS dictates several new rules that expand the types of people the government can deport, including anyone “with a chargeable criminal offense.” They also call for the hiring of 10,000 immigration and customs agents and an expansion of the expedited removal process.

“I don’t see anything changing with respect to how the sheriff’s office currently has an arrangement with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to still have those checks (immigration checks in jails) done,” Montgomery said.

He said the county is still under the supervision of a federal court stemming from former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was charged with contempt of court for racial profiling. The county’s 287(g) program is no longer in place.

287(g) programs delegate immigration enforcement to local law enforcement officers. Under the provisions of Arizona’s SB1070 that weren’t struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, the sheriff’s office investigates the residency status of people who are arrested when they are booked into jail.

A DHS memorandum mandates that ICE and Customs and Border Protection engage in 287(g) agreements with “all willing and qualified law enforcement jurisdictions that meet all program requirements.” Montgomery said he doesn’t see Maricopa County’s 287(g) program coming back anytime soon.

In Phoenix, police officers are required to make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of someone they’ve stopped, if they have reasonable suspicion that the person may be undocumented.

ICE stopped picking up suspected undocumented immigrants from local jails Friday after Montgomery advised Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone to stop the practice of “courtesy holds.” Jails would previously hold individuals who had been ordered by the state to be released for an additional 24-48 hours so ICE had the opportunity to pick them up and investigate their immigration status.

Montgomery said he cannot comment on the pending litigation regarding the order to stop courtesy holds.

“What’s the real role in our system of federalism between decisions that are made by a federal executive authority and local state law enforcement officials within the executive branch?” Montgomery said. “We have Supreme Court case law that says the federal government cannot co-opt local executive branch officials to carry out federal policy.”

He stressed that victims and witnesses of crimes shouldn’t worry about their immigration status when it comes to helping officers with criminal investigations. It’s part of his job to address communities that are hesitant to cooperate with law enforcement.

“If you’re dealing with the victim of a crime or a witness to a crime, their immigration status doesn’t matter,” he said.

Montgomery said he doesn’t think there will be an increase in racial profiling with DHS’ new policies.

“These new guidelines address federal agencies; they do not address local law enforcement,” he said. “Law enforcement here within Maricopa County are professionals … I do not believe that simply making a policy statement or issuing memoranda from the Department of Homeland Security is going to then automatically result in a change in the professionalism of our local law enforcement.”