PCSD Sheriff reconsiders position on ICE detainers

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier says he is reconsidering a department policy which stations an ICE agent at the Pima County Jail.

The practice has come under fire by the ACLU because it says it's erodes public trust.

The county has kept an agent at the jail for about a year.

ICE has become a lightening rod in the immigration debate because of its use of detainers. The Immigration agency will ask the county to hold an inmate until it can come pick them up.

The policy has become controversial because some police agencies refused to acknowledge ICE detainers and will not hold the inmate once they have been released from jail custody.

By having an agent at the jail, the county does not need to notify ICE and ICE does not need to use resources to pick the person up for hold.

Sheriff Napier said his stance "is not rigid."

"We've done some analysis about the nature of ICE detainers that may give us some reason to rethink that policy," Napier said.

Meantime, Napier is still waiting for County Supervisors to decide whether to accept or reject a nearly $1.4 million gr ant from the Department of Homeland Security through Operation Stonegarden.

DHS awards gr ants to border law enforcement agencies to enhance the ability to enforce border security.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department has received about $16 million in the past decade to pay overtime and purchase vehicles.

Napier says the money is used to patrol remote, rural areas which he could not afford to do without the gr ant money. The county approved the gr ant last February 20, but reversed its decision a few days later.

The board gave the sheriff a list of five conditions which must be met before it would approve the grant.

According to Kristen Randall of the Justice Alliance,  "Sheriff Napier did fulfill his part of the conditions but that does not mean all the conditions have been met."

"I think moving the goal posts on me is disquieting," Napier said. "I keep my commitments."

Napier has been meeting with a commission established by the county to monitor the conditions and has met with the ACLU.

He said he values the input but he said "in February they told me you if do these five things the grant will be approved and now the goal posts have been moved."

Napier feels part of the problem here is that much of what is happening in Washington D.C. has bled into local politics.

"It's just misplaced anger at Washington DC that's manifested locally," he said. "It's really misplaced."

The board put off a decision until its first meeting in September.

There is no general agreement whether the delay will cause the grant offer to be withdrawn but most believe it will stay in place at least until the next fiscal year which starts in October, although Napier thinks the grant will remain good until "the end of December."

However, if Pima County decides to refuse the grant this year, it could mean there will be no more money in the future.

"I think it's a blunder of epic proportions," Napier said.

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