Less serious crimes spur immigration holds

March 30, 2009 at 8:19 PM
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PHOENIX, March 30 (UPI) -- Most illegal immigrants held in one Arizona county were picked up for run-of-the-mill offenses, a government report said.

In Maricopa County, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio has come under fire for targeting illegal immigrants, data show the majority of charges against them were for relatively minor drug- and alcohol-related violations, failure to pay fines or appear in court, and allegations related to forgery and using false identification, The Arizona Republic reported Monday.

"People are arrested every day for the initial violation of the law. If they come to the jail we take one step further to determine if they are illegal. This has been done for years and years, the only difference is now we are the ones doing it," Arpaio said. "Anybody booked into the jail who are illegal, they put a hold on them, it doesn't matter if it's for spitting on the sidewalk."

State civil rights advocates said the report indicates the sheriff's office is overstepping its bounds.

"I think that this data points to the wholesale failure of the federal government to engage in oversight and monitoring of how these police departments are using and abusing their authority," said Arizona ACLU Director Alessandra Soler Meetze. "These statistics demonstrate that we maybe have other police departments who are also making immigration enforcement a priority, not public safety."

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