Sheriff Arpaio Reluctantly Suspends Immigration Crackdown Efforts

Last month’s landmark federal court ruling has proven to be a big blow to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the movement for more local immigration enforcement. In the wake of the judge’s decision that the sheriff’s office had racially profiled Latinos in its patrols, Arpaio has, at least, temporarily suspended all his immigration efforts.

Arpaio proudly paved the way for local police across the country to take up immigration enforcement. Now, he is reconsidering his crackdowns and other law enforcement officials are expected to follow his lead. These crackdowns gained momentum more than seven years ago and made confronting the nation’s border issues a central part of Arpaio’s political identity.

Arpaio critics and those advocating for Congress to overhaul the nation’s immigration system are clearly on the rise as the national stance on immigration demonstrates. The anti-Arpaio crowd is gaining ground in its fight to get the sheriff out of the immigration enforcement game altogether.

For now, the sheriff’s immigration work will remain on hold until at least June 14, when lawyers will attend a hearing and discuss possible remedies to the constitutional violations found in May by a U.S. District Judge. It’s not known whether Arpaio will resume immigration enforcement after the hearing. The ruling doesn’t altogether bar Arpaio from enforcing the state’s immigration laws, but imposes a long list of restrictions on his immigration patrols, such as a prohibition on using race as a factor in deciding whether to stop a vehicle with a Latino occupant.

The sheriff won’t face jail time or fines as a result of the ruling. Rather, lawyers opposing the sheriff are expected to seek more training for officers, better record-keeping of arrests and a court-appointed official to monitor the agency’s operations to make sure the sheriff’s office isn’t making unconstitutional arrests.

After Arpaio lost his federal immigration arrest powers in October 2009, he cited state immigration laws as he continued to carry out enforcement efforts. It has been almost two years since Arpaio conducted his last signature sweep, in which deputies flood an area of a city — in some cases, heavily Latino areas — over several days to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders. Even so, he continued enforcing Arizona’s immigrant smuggling law and another state law that bans employers from hiring immigrants living in the country without permission. The sheriff’s office has now put both enforcement approaches on hold given this latest ruling.

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