Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Are we becoming the Federal Republic of America?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the no-nonsense sheriff of Maricopa County, the county surrounding Phoenix, Arizona.

The following article is in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal.

'The Obama administration is curbing the powers of an Arizona sheriff who has led one of the most contentious fights against illegal immigrants.

Under an agreement involving local enforcement of federal immigration law, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies will no longer have the authority to arrest suspected illegal immigrants in the streets in the course of their duty.

A senior official with Immigration & Customs Enforcement flew to Phoenix late last month with the revised agreement, which the sheriff signed late last week.

Homeland Security announced in July that all localities participating in the enforcement program -- more than 60 from Alabama to California -- would have to sign revised enforcement deals by Oct. 15. Unlike others participating in the program, Mr. Arpaio will be restricted to determining the immigration status of inmates booked into Maricopa County jails. Vincent Picard, an ICE spokesman in Phoenix, declined to comment. ICE is a unit of the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Arpaio was an early participant in a federal immigration program that enlists and trains local police to identify suspected criminal aliens in jails and on the streets. The program, known as 287g, is designed to target drug dealers, gang members and human smugglers.

Since February 2007, Mr. Arpaio has arrested about 30,000 illegal immigrants who were booked into jails in his county. The street-enforcement component, the most contentious portion of the program, resulted in the apprehension of far fewer people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

Human-rights activists have said Mr. Arpaio's officers engaged in racial profiling and found pretexts, such as broken tail lights, to arrest undocumented residents of the Phoenix area. The Department of Justice is investigating whether officers used skin color as a pretense to stop Hispanics. Mr. Arpaio has said that his actions were in line with the law.

"They took away my authority on the streets. That doesn't matter because I will still pursue illegals on the streets of Maricopa utilizing the authority I have as the elected official," Mr. Arpaio said Tuesday in an interview.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a comprehensive review of the 287g program shortly after taking office.

A person close to the Obama administration said some DHS officials had been hoping Mr. Arpaio would withdraw from the program altogether when confronted with a watered-down version.

Mr. Arpaio, a headline-grabbing elected official in his fifth term, said: "They thought I wasn't going to sign it. I signed it."'

So, the question has to be asked.

Why, Ms. Napolitano?

Why not arrest illegal immigrants?

In a related article in today's The Arizona Republic, we learn the following.

'Federal officials have come under pressure from civil-rights, labor, religious and pro-immigrant groups to end the program, known as 287(g), because of racial-profiling fears.

A canvass of agencies in the U.S. with both street-level and jail-enforcement agreements indicated that ICE's decision to remove the street-level provision with the Sheriff's Office was unique.

The interaction with ICE during the last sweep could give insight into the practical impact of Arpaio losing the street-level agreement. When sheriff's posse members and deputies descended on Chandler in July, federal immigration agents would not take custody of nine suspected illegal immigrants who were not suspected of other crimes.'

So, Maricopa County and Sheriff Arpaio are singled out by the U.S. government?

And ICE won't take custody of illegal aliens unless they have committed crimes?

Isn't it illegal to be in this country illegally?

Sheriff Arpaio certainly has detractors. The folks that don't like him include Amnesty International, the ACLU, and the Arizona arm of the Anti-Defamation League.

However, Arpaio continues to enjoy the support of Maricopa County voters, who reelected him sheriff by double-digit margins in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.

In 2007 a petition to recall Arpaio from office failed to gain enough voter signatures to get on the ballot. In a survey taken by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication while the petition was in circulation, nearly three out of four respondents opposed the recall, and 65 percent of the respondents held a positive opinion of Arpaio.

So, who runs Maricopa County?

The residents, or the U.S. government?

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