Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio’s controversial crackdown on illegal immigration and the federal program that lets him identify and arrest undocumented immigrants is a financial and public-safety failure, charge critics in a new report quoted by the Arizona Republic. The program, known as 287 (g), has been touted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a public-safety measure aimed at removing criminal illegal immigrants. The Sheriff’s Office and other agencies have focused on easy targets such as traffic violators and day laborers who pose little threat, says Justice Strategies, a non-profit research group based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Arpaio defended his participation in the program, which he said has led to the identification of thousands of illegal immigrants.
The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency touts the nearly 8-year-old program as a money saver, but Arizona taxpayers are footing a greater share of the bill for enforcing immigration laws, usually the responsibility of the federal government, the report contends. Enforcing immigration laws detracts local police from their primary job of fighting crime and keeping neighborhoods safe, the report says, and race, not crime, has fueled the program’s growth in Phoenix and other areas with growing Latino populations. Michael Keegan, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said, “The department takes very seriously any allegations of civil-rights abuses, and Secretary Napolitano is undertaking a broad review of all immigration programs, including the 287 (g) agreements,” he said. ICE credits the program with identifying more than 70,000 people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.