Study says local immigration enforcement is wasting money

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Sheriff's take on it

PHOENIX -- It's a heated debate that has divided a state.

Section 287(g) of Federal Immigration Law allowed Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies to train with federal ICE agents in detecting and arresting illegal immigrants.

"These 287(g) officers aren't making us any safer, claims Bob McWhirter, "They're spending most of their time chasing after gardeners and dishwashers - people without criminal records."

A non-profit research group called Justice Strategies says the 287(g) program has "corrupted" criminal justice and is a misuse of funds. The group also calls for a federal investigation.

It claims "the program purportedly saved Arizona 9 million dollars by accelerating the removal of immigrants from prison. But that does not count the 30 million dollars in state monies appropriated from 2007 to 2009 to fund partnerships with ICE."

Like Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "crime suppression roundups" making arrests for traffic violations. Last spring, he referred to them differently.

The sheriff bawks at critics. In a conversation with 3TV, he says he is well within the law.

Sheriff: "We don't go after illegals directly, per se."

3TV's Ben Lemoine: "You don't go after illegals?"

Sheriff: "No, we are pursuant to our duties. We have other crimes first. And then we trigger the illegal situation."

Ben: "Then why did you call it an "illegal immigration operation" last year?"

Sheriff: "You know, if you want to get into semantics, no because it was a crime suppression operation including if we came accross any illegals that we're going to arrest them."

And even though in 5 sweeps last year, half of all arrests were illegals, arpaio maintains that just highlites the problem.

"If we catch anybody, whether it's a cracked windshield, anybody that violates the law, we are going to pursue that and arrest illegals" says Arpaio.