Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he’s planning to bolster his image as the “poster-boy” of immigration enforcement by showcasing his strict policies with a crime suppression sweep on July 29, the day Arizona’s new immigration law is scheduled to take effect.
Arpaio, whose office has turned over nearly 40,000 suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities during the past three years, said he hopes to jail as many people as possible, in the most visible way possible. He said he is planning to expand his tent city jail to make room for all the illegal immigrants he expects to round up.
“Why not take advantage of a new law, if the opportunity presents itself?” Arpaio said. “I’m doing this to show the people of Maricopa County that I don’t just talk about (illegal immigration enforcement), I do it.”
Meanwhile, city and county officials across the state are bracing for a new set of problems that could increase jail and court costs for local governments and make it more difficult to deport illegal immigrants.
Suspected illegal immigrants charged under the state law will have the right to due process in court, including the right to remain silent, which weren’t available to them previously. Instead of simply turning over suspects to federal authorities for deportation, local law enforcement officers will have to conduct investigations and prosecutors will have to prove to a judge that suspects arrested under the immigration law are guilty.
But for cities such as Mesa, the biggest problem is finding the money to cover police and court costs associated with the new law.
“What we’re finding is cities get to deal with enforcement,” said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. “There will be a cost or a cost in service. There will be a cost that will be paid.”
Smith said Mesa doesn’t have enough money to cover the additional costs that the law will require. To put the city’s budget woes into perspective, Smith said it had a general fund of $345 million when he began his term two years ago and now it is down to $297 million. Police, fire and courts account for 70 percent of the general fund, he said.
Jail costs, though, could present the biggest financial problems for local governments. Two of the three misdemeanor charges that are outlined in S1070 would carry a maximum jail sentence of six months. One of the misdemeanor charges, however, calls for a maximum of 20 days in jail for a first offense and 30 days in jail for a second.
Cities across the Valley, including Mesa, have contracts with the county that allow crime suspects to be booked into county jails. Booking into the county jail costs cities $192 for the first day and $72 a day thereafter.
Arizona’s court system may have to devote more resources to processing misdemeanors, but it’s not clear how much money it will cost.
As of press time July 15, it wasn’t even clear how the cases would be handled in court. The Arizona Supreme Court staff is planning to train judges across the state next week on the procedures associated with S1070.
Jennifer Liewer, court spokeswoman, said details of the training won’t be public until after the training session. She said the court will issue an administrative order in the next few days on how to process the cases.
It’s also unclear how much additional money will be needed to gather evidence needed to prosecute suspected illegal immigrants.
Defense attorney David Euchner, who filed a brief opposing the immigration law in one of six lawsuits being heard in U.S. District Court, said investigations to determine a suspect’s immigration status will result in prolonged detentions, or will effectively place someone in custody and subject to Miranda.
“SB1070 creates a scenario that will require officers to read Miranda warnings before asking any questions about national origin,” Euchner wrote. The purpose of any questioning about nationality or country of origin would obviously be to elicit responses incriminating the suspect of a crime.”
Mesa City Prosecutor John Pombier said one of the biggest challenges will be in proving that someone has been in the country illegally for more than 30 continuous days, one of the requirements in prosecuting part of the law that makes it a crime for not carrying alien registration documents.
Pombier said proving someone has been in the state for more than 30 days will likely take follow-up investigation that typically isn’t done with misdemeanors, which could jack up costs. And in the meantime, the suspect may disappear or fail to appear for court.
“There typically isn’t a lot of money for additional investigation on misdemeanors,” he said.
The Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys Advisory Council is in the final stages of drafting a model protocol for prosecuting S1070 cases it intends to begin distributing to prosecutors statewide early next week, according to Elizabeth Ortiz, interim executive director.
Ortiz didn’t divulge details of the protocol, but she hinted it is similar to guidelines Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley issued July 8.
Romley’s guidelines provide police with laundry lists of the kinds of evidence and information he wants to see when the cases are submitted to his office.
Romley wants to know the reason the person was stopped in the first place and the reasonable suspicion for questioning the citizenship of the person. He also wants verification from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Border Patrol or a local officer certified in enforcing immigration law that there is no record of the person being in the country legally.
But Romley will be prosecuting only a portion of the cases: the ones that were filed in Maricopa County justice courts.
That also means working in tandem with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office – and Arpaio, who has clashed with Romley in the past over immigration policy.
While Romley has outlined a cautious approach to prosecuting illegal immigrants, Arpaio wants maximum punishment for every offender. In fact, Arpaio said he expects to arrest so many illegal immigrants that he’ll need to pitch more tents in his outdoor jail to house them.
“I will be forming this month a special tent city to make room,” he said. I just want to make sure I have room from the 29th and on.”
Arpaio said that while he’s still finalizing his plans for making this happen, he’s been accumulating military-style tents for years, and that he has all the inmate labor he would need to erect them. ”If I had to build more tents, it would be very, very easy,” Arpaio said.
But Maricopa County Manager David Smith said Arpaio’s claim of needing additional space in tent city for illegal immigrants is nothing more than a publicity stunt. ”He’s trying to play his two signature issues, which are tent city and arresting illegal immigrants,” Smith said. “He runs a $270 million operation by whim-driven chaos. It’s just another one of his typical (public relations) efforts. He’s recycling them for the hundredth time to see if he can get some play.”
Smith said the sheriff could arrest and jail thousands more inmates without having to use any more tents. The Maricopa County jail system can hold roughly 9,000 inmates; right now there are about 7,500 people in the jails, according to county records. Even tent city has room for another 900 inmates.
Not only are Arpaio’s claims of needing additional tent city space not realistic, Smith said, but that creating additional tent city capacity would actually require approval from the county Board of Supervisors, who may balk at spending more money in the middle of a budget crisis and while they are battling with Arpaio over other financial issues. “This would take a substantial amount of money,” Smith said. “And if it means pouring concrete or doing electrical work, those plans would have to be approved.”
The 3 misdemeanors created by S1070
Willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document
The law states that a person is guilty of the crime if they are in violation of federal law that requires a person to register as an alien.
The misdemeanor also carries a truth-in-sentencing provision and requires the defendant to pay jail costs.
Penalties are a maximum fine of $100 and a maximum jail term of 20 days for a first offender. A second offense calls for a maximum jail term of 30 days in jail.
Unlawful stopping to hire and pick up passengers for work; unlawful application, solicitation or employment
Makes it a crime for a driver to stop a motor vehicle on the road in an attempt to hire or hire people for work if the vehicle impedes traffic. It also outlaws people from getting into the vehicle to be hired. The law also prohibits anyone unlawfully present in the United State from knowingly looking for work or working.
Penalties are a maximum fine of $2,500 or maximum jail term of six months.
Unlawful transporting, moving, concealing, harboring or shielding of unlawful aliens
Outlaws transporting or hiding illegal immigrants.
Penalties include a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum jail term of six months. If the case involves the movement of 10 or more illegal aliens, then the crime becomes a class 6 felony, the lowest level felony. The fine, however, increases to a minimum of $1,000 for each illegal alien involved.