The federal government may not be doing much when it comes to illegal immigration, but Arizona’s Maricopa County Attorney and Sheriff are. The top two criminal law enforcement officials in Arizona have teamed up to arrest and prosecute illegal immigrants crossing the border into Arizona using a new state human smuggling law, and the courts agree. Arizona is the first state in the nation to pass a law against human smuggling.
Following the legal advice of Maricopa County’s tough on crime prosecutor Andrew Thomas, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio began arresting illegal immigrants under the new law and referring them for prosecution. Since the enforcement began, 272 illegal immigrants have been arrested and charged. Twenty-three illegal immigrants and one coyote have pled guilty, and will serve jail-time before being deported. [Those who are smuggled are charged with conspiracy to commit human smuggling.] With a felony on their record, they will have a slim chance at ever entering the U.S. legally or obtaining U.S. citizenship.
The Mexican government tried to interfere with the prosecution. The Consul General of Mexico, Carlos Flores-Vizcarra, asked California lawyer Peter Schey to file legal motions on behalf of the criminal defendants. Schey’s motions to dismiss the charges argued that conspiracy didn’t apply to the human smuggling statute, and that the human smuggling statute should be struck down as unconstitutional, claiming it was an impermissible infringement on federal jurisdiction. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said this was troubling, because it went beyond mere defense of a Mexican citizen in American courts, attempting to strike down Arizona’s laws. Thomas wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice requesting that the U.S. Government lodge a formal complaint with the Mexican government.
Sheriff Arpaio cheered the ruling, saying, “I just don’t believe in turning them over to I.C.E. for a free air-conditioned ride back to Mexico. They’re getting a free ride to the county jail to be prosecuted by the County Attorney.” He also criticized municipal law enforcement who refuse to enforce the conspiracy law against illegal immigrants because of the additional cost, noting that counties pay for felony arrests, not cities.
After the court’s opinion was released, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas commented, “I guess I would view the scoreboard as Arizona taxpayers—1, Mexican Government—nothing. It is an important and historic day in fighting against illegal immigration.” Sheriff Arpaio added, “Let them appeal, we’re still going to lock them up.”