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DHS pulls Maricopa County agreement, access to Secure Communities

Maricopa County jail

The Department of Homeland Security blocked the Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff’s access to ICE immigration identification programs and barred it from enforcing federal immigration laws in the wake of a federal investigation that uncovered discrimination against Latino inmates in a county facility.

The Department of Justice said on Dec. 15 that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office discriminates against Latinos and Latino inmates. The DoJ said, after an extensive investigation, it found that the office engaged in racial profiling of Latinos and possibly in violence against the group in the jail. It also said the investigation showed that the sheriff’s office retaliated against those who criticize it and routinely punishes Latino inmates with limited English proficiency when they don’t understand commands given in English. It also said the sheriff’s office denies critical services to Latino inmates that are provided to other inmates.

As a result, DHS said it would cancel the county’s access to its jail and information programs. “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is troubled by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) findings of discriminatory policing practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO),” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement released after the DoJ announced its findings.   “Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust.  DHS will not be a party to such practices,” she said. “Accordingly, and effective immediately, DHS is terminating MCSO’s 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office access to the Secure Communities program.” She said DHS will rely on federal resources in the county for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify and detain individuals there.

The 287 (g) jail model agreement basically allows local law enforcement to designate officers to perform federal immigration law enforcement functions. The Secure Communities program runs suspect’s identities  through through federal immigration and criminal databases. Removing the Secure Communities capabilities would not allow Maricopa County officers access to that information.

 “The Department will continue to enforce federal immigration laws in Maricopa County in smart, effective ways that focus our resources on criminal aliens, recent border crossers, repeat and egregious immigration law violators and employers who knowingly hire illegal labor,” she said.