Napolitano On Sheriff Arpaio: ‘He Was Unwilling To Accept There Were Standards That Needed To Be Met’

Today at the Center for American Progress, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano gave her first full discussion on immigration policy and what DHS is doing to lay the foundation for comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. One of the more controversial steps DHS has taken is the revision and standardization of its 287(g) immigration‐enforcement agreements with state and local police as part of DHS’ efforts to prioritize the removal of dangerous undocumented immigrants. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio made national headlines last month when he belligerently stated that he would continue to enforce immigration laws on the streets of Maricopa County, despite the fact that DHS deliberately limited his power to checking the immigration status of inmates who entered his jails.

Napolitano sat down with ThinkProgress today to explain what drove DHS’ decision to limit some of Arpaio’s authority amidst rampant allegations of racial profiling against the Sheriff’s Office:

I’ve known Sheriff Joe for a long time, and my view was the 287(g) — the agreements that were in existence were pretty standard-less. They had no terms, they had no priorities. They were pretty basic…It was time to build some standards into 287(g) and to put some organization into this.

There are two kinds of 287(g) — one is the task force model where local law enforcement pairs with federal law enforcement and the other is the jail where you’re doing work to move and identify criminal aliens and help with the immigration system. The jail model has never been an issue with Sheriff Joe…it is the task force model that has been problematic. And he was unwilling to accept that there were standards that needed to be met. He wanted to go off on his own. And so that’s where we had a parting of ways.

Watch it:

If Arpaio had showed that he was willing to accept the standards DHS was requiring, he would’ve had to stop conducting blind immigration raids and prioritize “the identification and removal of criminal aliens.” Arpaio would also have had to agreed to be bound by civil rights laws and subject to greater oversight by DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. DHS indicated that police agencies who could not meet the new uniform standards would lose their federal authority.

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Arpaio has stuck to his promise of continuing his notorious immigrant “crime sweeps” despite the fact that he lacks federal permission to do so. During the event’s Q&A;, Napolitano openly opposed Arpaio’s continued immigration raids, stating that she doesn’t believe that they are the best way to ensure public safety. However, she also indicated that he is operating under state, not federal laws and thus it’s up to the Department of Justice to address Arpaio’s alleged civil rights infringements as part of its ongoing investigation.

Napolitano’s sensible explanation countered the defiant account Arpaio hastily provided the cameras back in October. Arpaio has adamantly insisted that he is simply the White House’s “poster boy” and that DHS singled him out and took his authority as an example. Arpaio also said, “if she [Napolitano] doesn’t like what I’m doing, that’s ok. I’m still the Sheriff.”