$150M in Municipal Costs Ends Maricopa County's Notorious Immigration Holds

The practice of courtesy immigration holds by the former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for ICE have ended due to the county's high legal costs.

MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZ. -- When Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone ended the practice of "courtesy holds" for Federal immigration detention by his embattled predecessor, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Federal government labeled the practice as dangerous.

"[Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO)] has implemented a policy which will undoubtedly result in dangerous criminal aliens being released to the street to re-victimize the innocent citizens of that community," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe said in a prepared statement, according to Phoenix 12News.

But Penzone, who was elected by voters reportedly frustrated by legal fees the county faces over court cases involving Joe Arpaio's immigration practices, said he was advised by County Attorney Bill Montgomery that the long-standing courtesy hold policy -- which holds individuals wanted for questioning by ICE for up to 48 hours passed their court-ordered releases -- is illegal and could bring on a lawsuit.

We cannot afford in this community to have additional lawsuits nor can we be accepting of violations of the law," Penzone said on local radio, according to Phoenix 12News.

ICE Detainer Requests Have Proved Expensive

Lawsuits related to immigration practices by MCSO, which has six jails, are estimated to be costing the municipality about $150 million in legal fees and court-ordered monitoring costs.

A columnist for the Phoenix New Times said that for fiscal year 2017, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors "was forced to raise property taxes 5.47 cents to pay for 72 new staff members to help implement the various reforms ordered by the court" from the 2013 case Melendres v. Arpaio.

In December, plaintiff Jacinta Gonzalez Goodman filed a new Federal lawsuit against MCSO for holding her overnight in jail without probable cause when a judge freed her the evening prior, according to the Arizona Republic who had obtained the court filing. She told the news affiliate that she was arrested during a political protest of Donald Trump in March 2016, along with two others, accused of blocking a highway. The two others were released on time while she was detained for ICE, she said.

Gonzalez Goodman is not an undocumented immigrant -- she is a Mexican-born U.S. citizen with a Louisiana driver’s license. She is suing on the basis that her Constitutional rights were violated by being held longer than her release date.

New Response to ICE Requests in Maricopa County

Penzone said that he is looking at the best solution that will facilitate ICE requests "in a legal manner."

While ICE officers will remain at the county jail, MCSO will no longer detain inmates beyond their release dates.  The Federal agency will now have to get an arrest warrant if it wants MCSO to hold an undocumented inmate beyond a court-ordered release -- or, pick them up on time.

In a social media broadcast, local news indicated that though ICE has a presence in MCSO jails, the agency doesn't always pick up those it wants to detain in a timely manner. Penzone is making the Feds "do their job," reported 12News correspondent Brahm Resnick.

It is unclear at this time if the Gonzalez Goodman case filed in Federal court will set a precedent for responding to ICE detention requests.


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