A U.S. District Judge ruled Monday that a tactic employed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office to detain and deport undocumented immigrants is in conflict with state and federal law. Arpaio’s office has been attempting to charge suspected undocumented immigrants who paid a fee to be smuggled into the United States as coconspirators in the crime of human smuggling. On Monday, District Court Judge Robert Broomfield ruled that this does not reflect existing immigration laws that are in place to punish immigrant smugglers or coyotes, as opposed to the immigrants themselves. Of those charged under Arizona’s human smuggling law in Maricopa County, since 2011, 75 percent were themselves being smuggled.
When it comes to charging suspected undocumented immigrants to this country with a crime, the stakes are high. In addition to the immediate threat of deportation for those who are convicted of criminal activity, being charged with a crime can permanently impact one’s chance of achieving legal residency status in this country. Under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, individuals are ineligible for deportation deferments if they have been convicted of a serious criminal offense. Similarly, under the most recent immigration reform bill, currently under debate in Congress, individuals would not be allowed to legalize their status if they have a criminal record. For those who are intent on removing undocumented immigrants from this country, convicting them of a crime is a powerful tool being used to ensure that this happens.
This is not the first time in the past week that Arpaio found himself in the news. This week, Arpaio announced that Maricopa County Jails will gradually be going vegetarian. The sheriff, who is well known for radical cost cutting measures in the jails he oversees, estimates that by no longer serving meat to inmates in his jurisdiction, Maricopa County will save $100,000.
In May, a federal judge ruled that Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department were guilty of systematically exploiting the rights of Latinos in Maricopa County. The judge found that Arpaio regularly instructed law enforcement officers to racially profile Latino individuals, partially in an effort to seek out and remove undocumented immigrants from the county. A federal monitor has since been placed on the sheriff and his office to ensure that officers are following the law. Arpaio has vowed to appeal the ruling.