Jail officers working for Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio handed in their federal credentials during a news conference in Phoenix Wednesday, a day before civil rights attorneys will be in federal court to seek a ruling in a lawsuit that alleges Arpaio systematically discriminated against Latino residents in conducting traffic patrols and so-called "crime suppression sweeps.”
Arpaio, who has proclaimed himself as the “toughest sheriff in America,” spoke at the same news conference. He said he's going to hold the federal government to its promise to send 50 federal agents to do such screening in his jail. But he predicted there will be undocumented immigrants in jail who won't be deported and will be put back on streets. “I want to see how many agents are going to be coming to our jail,” the sheriff said. "I want to see how long it will take for 50 agents from across the country to work in our jails.”
Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security announced that more than 90 of Arpaio's Maricopa County jail officers could no longer check whether inmates were undocumented immigrants.
The decision followed the release of a scathing Department of Justice report that said Arpaio's office has a pattern of racially profiling Latinos, basing immigration enforcement on racially charged citizen complaints and punishing Latino jail inmates for speaking Spanish. The sheriff has denied the allegations.
Homeland Security officials had no immediate comment on Arpaio's comments on Wednesday, but later pointed to a Dec. 21 letter that Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent to a county official, saying federal agents will staff the county's jails on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis and that immigrants who pose public safety threats will be taken into federal custody and won't be released, Morton said in the letter.
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