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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Arizona Sheriff's Officers Turn in Federal Credentials

The Arizona Republic: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Wednesday made a show of his detention officers turning in badges that came with their authorization to conduct federal immigration screenings in county jails.

But federal officials say immigration enforcement at the jails will not change following a decision to revoke the authorization and take over the duties themselves.

The Sheriff's Office has had an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement since 2007 that authorized detention officers to conduct immigration screenings on every inmate booked into a Maricopa County jail.

Under that agreement, Arpaio's officers screened nearly 475,000 inmates since the agreement took effect, placing immigration detainers on about 44,000 inmates that prevent them from leaving jail until federal officials have reviewed their files.

Federal officials, however, removed that authority last week in the wake of a Justice Department report that accused the Sheriff's Office of violating civil rights and discriminating against Latino residents and inmates.

In response, 92 detention officers joined Arpaio at a news conference Wednesday where they turned in their ICE credentials.

A federal Department of Homeland Security official said a contingency plan already is in place that dedicates 50 immigration officers to enforce immigration laws at the jail. The sole responsibility of the 50 ICE officers is to respond, apprehend and arrest people for federal immigration violations, the official said.

The ICE officers will provide coverage at the jail 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the official said.

Under the plan, all people booked into the jail will have their fingerprints automatically screened through a DHS immigration computer database as part of the federal government's Secure Communities program, the official said. ICE officers at the jail will place detainers on every person who the database shows is either an immigrant in the country illegally or is a legal immigrant accused of committing an aggravated felony that makes him or her deportable from the United States.

The official pointed out that the DHS immigration database is not foolproof. Some illegal immigrants may not show up in the database if they entered the country illegally and have never been arrested by the police or apprehended by federal immigration officials. To prevent illegal immigrants not in the database from slipping through the cracks, ICE officials will interview every person booked into the jail, unless the database shows they are naturalized U.S. citizens who are not deportable or are legal immigrants accused of petty crimes who are also not deportable.

The DHS official said the federal ICE officers will place detainers on all criminal immigrants identified in the jail and instruct the Sheriff's Office not to release them on the streets. ICE officials also will instruct the Sheriff's Office to hand over to ICE all criminal immigrants with detainers upon completion of their cases.

The Sheriff's Office books about 300 inmates into jail each day. Sheriff's Detention Chief Mike Olson said the agency placed immigration-related detainers on about 15 inmates each day.

The number of detainers placed on inmates has dropped since federal officials took over the program last week, Arpaio said. Since then, he said, federal officials have placed immigration-related detainers on three inmates.

An ICE official could neither confirm nor deny that total but insisted that undocumented inmates will not be allowed to "walk free" as Arpaio has claimed.

If Arpaio agrees to cooperate with the Department of Justice to resolve the issues in the report, ICE could reinstate the 287(g) agreement, allowing jail officers to resume enforcing federal immigration laws, the official said.

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