Sheriff to choose how to nab illegals

Aug. 5, 2009 at 4:37 PM

PHOENIX, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Maricopa County, Ariz., law enforcement must choose between two federal policies to pursue illegal aliens, officials indicated Wednesday.

The Arizona Republic reported on the debate between those supporting Sheriff Joe Arpaio's crime suppression operations permitting illegal immigrant sweeps, and critics who advocate a policy targeting criminal aliens. The critics say the sweeps are expensive, amount to racial profiling and siphon funds from other crime fighting.

Arpaio said, "The crime suppression isn't just for these illegals, it supplements our state laws. It's an overall fight against immigration."

The sweeps have occurred 10 times since March 2008, and resulted in 552 arrests, said the sheriff's office. Fewer than half of those arrested were in the U.S. illegally. They were picked up for such offenses as driving with suspended licenses.

The alternative method, a Homeland Security Department policy, targets only those aliens who commit crimes other than illegal border crossing. This method has caught more than 26,000 illegal aliens during their jail-booking process for crimes other than illegal immigration, the newspaper reported.

The news service said Arpaio has fewer than 90 days to decide between the two policies. If he accepts Homeland Security's policy, he can conduct sweeps, but must release illegal immigrant who have not committed crimes other than being in the country illegally.

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