On February 17, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone announced he would no longer detain County jail inmates facing a civil immigration detainer beyond the period of time for detention authorized under Arizona State law on the advice of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The County’s decision to no longer cooperate with federal agents could have put ICE agents at risk.
The decision by Penzone and County Attorney Bill Montgomery sparked outrage and on Friday, Penzone announced that he was once again changing the policy.
“To act as a responsible law enforcement partner we immediately established new protocols regarding notification of detainees of interest by ICE. When MCSO jail personnel receive notice from the court to process inmates for release, we immediately notify ICE Agents. This notification usually occurs 5-7 hours prior to completion of the release process. We again notify ICE of 15 minutes prior to the completion of the release process. This practice was intended to facilitate the opportunity for ICE to detain individuals as they were released from our custody. Although we continued to communicate with ICE, we also prioritized research for options to address concerns regarding public safety and the safety of ICE agents. We met with ICE leadership to determine an acceptable solution to facilitate transfer of detainees. I requested a legal review by Bill Montgomery and the MCAO to ensure our practice would be legal and constitutional,” said Penzone in a statement issued Friday.
Penzone claims that he “was advised it is within our legal authority to permit the transfer of custody of individuals who are deemed in violation of federal immigration law to ICE Agents inside the Maricopa County Jail facilities.”
Now, Penzone says that “ICE will be responsible to respond to the appropriate MCSO detention center prior to the completion of the release process. Upon transfer of custody at the conclusion of release detention, the detainee will become the responsibility of ICE and will be immediately transferred from Maricopa County Jails to a detention center under ICE’s authority. MCSO will not detain individuals beyond the legal limit and conclusion of their release process. Should ICE fail to respond prior to completion of the process, we will be legally obligated to release them consistent with the court’s order.”
According to a Judicial Watch report, “An average of 400 “criminal illegal immigrants” are being released every 10 days” by Penzone “many of them violent offenders.”
“Under a longtime partnership between the county and the feds, the Phoenix field office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was notified when “aliens unlawfully present with additional Arizona charges” were released from the Maricopa County Jail, which is one of the nation’s largest with a population of about 8,000. That ended when Penzone, who refers to illegal immigrants as “guests,” took office this year and, though he formally announced the change last week, it was put into practice much earlier,” reports Judicial Watch.
“When Penzone announced the new policy at a press conference last week, ICE issued a statement calling it an “immediate, dangerous change.” The agency’s Phoenix director for enforcement and removal operations, Enrique Lucero, was quoted in local media saying: “Immigration detainers have been a successful enforcement tool to prevent the release of dangerous criminals to our streets and mitigate the possibility of future crimes being committed against the residents of our communities,” reads the Judicial Watch report.