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Illegal immigration policies dominate county attorney debate

(From left) Maricopa County attorney candidates Rick Romley, Bill Montgomery and Michael Kielsky focused mainly on illegal immigration during their debate on July 20. (Photo by Gary Grado)

(From left) Maricopa County attorney candidates Rick Romley, Bill Montgomery and Michael Kielsky focused mainly on illegal immigration during their debate on July 20. (Photo by Gary Grado)

Interim Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley spent much of an hour debate July 20 defending his record on S1070 and immigration enforcement.

Romley’s opponent in the GOP primary for Maricopa County attorney, Bill Montgomery, launched into attacking his approach to illegal immigration from the onset of the debate and even in answering questions unrelated to the issue.

Montgomery accused Romley of creating an apparent conflict of interest for accepting campaign money from people opposed to the state’s employer sanctions law after declaring he wouldn’t enforce it.

Romley said he hasn’t refused to enforce the law, but he’s retooled the office’s approach by spreading the money around to more police agencies to enforce it.

Montgomery, a former deputy county attorney, also accused Romley of telling police he wouldn’t enforce S1070.

Romley said all he has told police is what is necessary to investigate and prosecute S1070 cases.
“Well my opponent likes to say, ‘you’re putting these roadblocks up.’ I would like to remind my opponent this cannot be like the past administration,” said Romley, who took over after Andrew Thomas resigned in April to run for attorney general. “The law is the law.”

Montgomery said that if Romley wanted to run against Thomas he should have joined the attorney general race.

Romley said that his urging Gov. Jan Brewer to not sign the law has since been vindicated because amendments to the bill addressed some of the problems he found with it.

The debate, presented by the Valley Citizens League, also included Libertarian candidate Michael Kielsky.

Kielsky said he wouldn’t waste limited resources prosecuting S1070 or any other crimes that don’t have a direct victim.

“The priorities of the office will be on prosecuting people who have hurt other people,” said Kielsky, a criminal defense attorney from Scottsdale.

Romley, whose policy is to go after cartels and human smuggling organizations, insinuated that Thomas’ policy to charge border crossers with the crime of conspiracy to commit human smuggling was a waste of money.

He said that his analysis shows that 96 percent of the 1,376 conspiracy cases involved people who “were not engaged in any other criminal conduct other than being here.”

Montgomery said he believes that to go after the big fish like Romley wants, police have to go after the little ones to get intelligence and work their way up.

“You can’t take the steps that my opponent has taken in the few weeks he’s been back in the office and expect to be able to affect that, it just doesn’t work that way,” Montgomery said.

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