Southern AZ sheriffs react to new immigration orders

Published: Feb. 21, 2017 at 5:00 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2017 at 7:55 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Newly released memos from the Department of Homeland Security have some sheriffs in southern Arizona feeling skeptical about how they'll meet the expectations of the federal government.

The memos from Sec. John Kelly state that no illegal immigrant in the United States will be exempt from enforcement, meaning there are no longer priority levels for deportation.

Kelly's memos call for expanding the 287(g) Program, which has DHS authorizing local and state law enforcement officers to assist with federal immigration enforcement.

To read the full memos, released on Feb. 20, click HERE.

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Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier said the department will need to know more details before committing to immigration assistance. He said the Pima County Sheriff's Department does not proactively engage in enforcement and he doesn't currently have the staffing to do it if the feds asked.

Even if DHS offered to pay for the labor, Napier said PCSD does not have the deputies to do it.

The memos from Kelly also call for additional housing space for the illegal immigrants when they're detained. ICE has already increased its capacity by 1,100 beds and contracts are under review across the southwest, according to the memos.

Napier said the Pima County Detention Center is already close to capacity with approximately 1,840 beds of 2,000 in use. He said adding immigrant detention to the county jail isn't likely.

"It's simply not practical," Napier said.

In Santa Cruz County, Sheriff Tony Estrada said his county has jail space available, but his deputies would not assist with enforcement even if DHS paid for their time and labor.

"I've heard 'the check's in the mail' before," said Estrada.

He said SCSO is open to discussing border security with DHS, but immigration is a federal issue that should be handled by federal resources, according to Estrada.

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels agrees that immigration is not an issue to be handled by his department. He said Cochise County Sheriff's Office has a good relationship with state and federal partners, but any shared responsibility should come with a shared financial cost.

He said local tax payers are already covering the cost of the State Criminal Alien Apprehension Program, an initiative from the 2000s that Dannels said border sheriff's signed onto with federal funding which has since drastically declined.

He said CCSO is focused on enforcing state laws and public safety, which includes border security,. He said immigration should be left to the federal agents, but border security is an issue that all law enforcement can rallied around.

"We all share a common goal of community safety," said Dannels.

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