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Posted Jun 25, 2012, 2:49 pm
Federal immigration agents won't go to pick up people who are suspected by Arizona police of being illegal immigrants unless the suspects are convicted criminals, recent border crossers, or have been previously deported, senior Homeland Security officials said Monday.
Instead, federal immigration enforcement officers will concentrate on detaining suspected illegal immigrants who meet those agency priorities.
Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will continue to respond to phone calls made by local police to check the immigration status of those they detain or arrest.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday the department would implement operational enhancements to its programs in Arizona to ensure that the agency can remain focused on its priorities."
The move guts a provision of Arizona's SB 1070 that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. Under the law, officers will be required to determine the immigration status of those they take into custody.
Local law enforcement expressed concern about the additional burden that requirement will place on police departments.
The Tucson Police Department will have to make some 50,000 inquiries every year to check immigration status, Chief Roberto Villaseñor said on Monday. That includes 36,000 people who ordinarily would be cited and released at the scene on misdemeanor charges, he said.
In a move that will also complicate enforcement of SB 1070, Homeland Security cancelled federal-local immigration task forces known as 287(g) programs. The partnerships allowed local police to make arrests for immigration offenses.
Gov. Jan Brewer blasted the move in an afternoon press release, saying "President Obama has demonstrated anew his utter disregard for the safety and security of the Arizona people."
"Of course, it is no coincidence that this announcement comes immediately on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling upholding the constitutionality of the heart of Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law: SB 1070," she said.
Brewer said that 68 agencies in 24 states have 287(g) agreements, but that only those in Arizona were ended.
TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.