(ESPAÑOL) For years, immigrants being released from jails in Phoenix, Arizona, would routinely be kept locked up an extra couple days to give federal authorities time to check their immigration status and launch deportation proceedings.
It was a policy put in place by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and widely denounced by critics who cited it as a pattern of unfair treatment toward immigrants. Jail systems in other cities have also faced legal challenges contending it’s unconstitutional to keep a person in jail after they’re released on bail or complete their sentence.
The man who defeated Arpaio in the November election announced Friday night that he was doing away with the policy amid questions about its constitutionality. That means the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will no longer keep immigrants past their release dates, putting more of the onus on Immigration, Customs and Enforcement officers.
“I have an obligation that this office act constitutionally and within the laws,” Penzone said at a news conference.
Penzone said the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office informed him of the legal issues surrounding policy, and he responded by doing away with the practice.
The County Attorney’s Office said Saturday that it had reviewed U.S. court cases on ICE civil immigration detainers, including a Texas one in which a court concluded that county officials without federal authorization to enforce immigration law can’t hold people beyond the time necessary to enforce state law.
State Sen. John Kavanagh, a Republican who has co-sponsored Arizona legislation targeting illegal immigration, earlier said Penzone’s move “really infuriates” him and that he’d try to get it rescinded.
Kavanagh said he’ll consult legislative lawyers and the County Attorney’s Office about Penzone’s move.
It may violate a state law requiring law enforcement agencies to cooperate with ICE on immigration matters to the fullest extent of the law, opening the door for sanctions against the county if the move isn’t rescinded, Kavanagh said.