Phoenix Sheriff Bars Naturalized Citizens From Jail Visits


Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a new policy that keeps naturalized U.S. citizens from visiting jail inmates, says the Arizona Republic. Some attorneys question whether that policy is legal or if it implies that there are different levels of citizenship. Ramon Delgadillo has worked 25 years as an interpreter for Maricopa County Superior Court. It’s part of his job to enter the county jail to interpret for defense attorneys representing Spanish-speaking defendants. He was turned away from the jail when he could not immediately provide detailed information about his naturalization certificate and his passport. Said Delgadillo: “There is no governmental requirement to carry the information that was requested. There is no requirement to apply for a passport as a citizen, naturalized or not.”

A foreign-born public defender and a mitigation specialist also were turned away. “You’ve got to understand that there’s no constitutional right to go into a jail,” Arpaio said. The defendants, however, do have a right to meet with their attorneys and certain other paralegal personnel. Within days, the sheriff’s office determined that court employees on such “privileged” visits could show court identification cards to get in to see defendants. The policy remains in effect for any other naturalized citizens. Native-born citizens can enter without proving citizenship; naturalized citizens cannot. Some immigration attorneys says that asking more questions of naturalized citizens than native-born citizens may violate their constitutional rights not to be singled out by unequal treatment without reason. David Derickson, a former judge who practices criminal-defense and civil-rights law, asked the rhetorical question: “Now, you’re going to have to carry your papers to get in to the jail? This is the kind of societal attitude that makes you think of being in Europe in the 1930s.”


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