December 21, 2011
PHOENIX — The Homeland Security Department will use 50 immigration agents to screen jail inmates in Arizona’s most populous county after revoking the sheriff’s authority to access its systems, the agency said Monday in a letter to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).
The letter from Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Nelson Peacock, obtained by the Associated Press, says the 50 dedicated agents will “screen, identify, apprehend and remove criminal aliens” found in Maricopa County jails.
The agents will replace county officers who had special training and the authority to perform the task in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s lockups. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano revoked that authority last week after a Justice Department investigation concluded that Arpaio’s office engaged in a pattern and practice of civil rights and constitutional violations and discriminated against Latinos.
Arpaio strongly disputed the Justice Department findings and said Monday that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents won’t come close to replacing the 91 officers who had been doing the work. He said agents won’t be in the jails and won’t deport all illegal immigrants.