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Sheriff Joe’s circus costly & ineffective, study finds

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

Joe Arpaio has turned law enforcement into a media circus in which he serves as ringmaster.

It is offensive. It is embarrassing to those of us who live in Arizona. And, according to an independent national study, it is a financial and public-safety failure.

Now former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, in her new role as secretary of Homeland Security, should step up and bring down the curtain on this long-running farce.

Thousands of people turned out in Phoenix last weekend to protest the way that Arpaio, Maricopa County’s sheriff, has been enforcing federal immigration laws.

Among their complaints was Arpaio’s widely self-publicized decision to segregate illegal immigrants from other inmates.

In most instances, enforcement of immigration laws is a federal responsibility. Under an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreement known as 287(g), local police can enforce laws against illegal immigration, though. Arpaio is one of those who has entered into such an agreement.

But a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group based in Brooklyn, N.Y., said the program is a failure.

Justice Strategies said the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies have used their 287(g) authority to focus on traffic violators, day laborers and other illegal immigrants who pose no serious threat.

There are other problems. The federal government says the program saves money, and that is true – for the federal government. Instead, Arizona taxpayers are forced to pay a greater share for enforcement of immigration laws when the work is done by local law enforcement agencies.

And chasing down people based solely on immigration status detracts police from their primary job of fighting crime and keeping neighborhoods safe – something no other agency does.

Lack of effectiveness and cost aside, less than two weeks ago, four key Democratic members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee asked Napolitano to investigate complaints about Arpaio’s use of the 287(g) program.

The complaints accuse Arpaio of unconstitutionally using skin color to look for illegal immigrants in crime sweeps and raids of worksites. If the complaints are substantiated, the agreement with Arpaio should be terminated, the House members told Napolitano.

Arpaio has consistently shown he is more interested in generating publicity than in better law enforcement. How else to explain dressing inmates in pink underwear and wide-striped uniforms, and Arpaio’s other actions designed to humiliate inmates and promote his “toughest sheriff in America” persona?

It is past time for Napolitano to pull down the tent on Arpaio’s performance. It should be replaced with fair and responsible law enforcement. This embarrassment has gone on too long.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan research group says having local authorities enforce immigration laws is a failure.

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