PHOENIX - When the federal government stripped Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies of their power to enforce federal immigration laws on the streets, the sheriff repeatedly said nothing would change.
Nevertheless, something did change on Monday. The sheriff raised the stakes in his battle against illegal immigration. The sheriff said that starting Monday every one of his deputies will go through training to specifically target illegal immigrants.
Sheriff Joe says, “I have been saying over and over again that my deputies can enforce the illegal immigration laws.”
The sheriff announced that he is ramping up the county's fight against illegal immigration by increasing the number of trained deputies from 100 to nearly 900.
In October the feds took away the department's street authority to make major immigration sweeps.
Instead, deputies would limit background checks until after a suspect committed a crime and was taken to jail. Under the new program, a simple traffic stop is enough reason to look into someone's background.
Kris Kobach, an expert on immigration law and border security, says the sheriff has "inherent arrest authority" and does not need federal approval to move forward.
Critics say there was a reason why the feds cracked down on Arpaio in the first place. The U.S. Justice Department is currently investigating the sheriff for alleged racial profiling. Lydia Guzman, with Somos America, says she and other activists are on alert.
“We are going to continue to document all of the abuses that took place so if he's going to step up his effort by eight times the amount, that means we're going to have to recruit more volunteers to document the abuses and the stops.”
The sheriff said the training will include a portion on racial profiling but would not really elaborate on how long the training lasts or how much it will cost.
Sheriff Arpaio also did not comment on when the new enforcement would start.