<!--:es-->Arpaio to decide on federal immigration enforcement policy<!--:-->

Arpaio to decide on federal immigration enforcement policy

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has less than 90 days to decide if he’s going to accept a news federal immigration-enforcement policy.

The new policy will likely weaken high fight against illegal immigration as deputies will no longer be able to arrest people solely on the basis of their immigration status.

If Arpaio chooses to stick with his controversial crime suppression sweeps the way he’s been doing them, he risks losing a key program in his jails. That program, which is sanctioned by the government and uses federally trained officers, identifies illegal immigrants who are booked for other crimes. It has caught more than 26,000 people since February 2008. In Arpaio’s sweeps — 10 since March 2008 — deputies have arrested more than 550 people, but fewer than half were undocumented immigrants.

It’s the so-called “criminal aliens” — people who have committed crimes other than coming into the country illegally — on which the federal government wants to focus. To that end, the Department of Homeland Security clarified its 287(g) program last month. It’s 287(g) that allows local law-enforcement-agencies to enforce federal immigration laws.

If Arpaio accepts the new policy, he can still conduct his sweeps under state laws, but he will have to release undocumented immigrants who have not committed other crimes. If he opts to keep doing what he’s been doing, he will lose that identification program in the jails.