Arpaio and Thomas not happy with new interim county attorney's decision

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PHOENIX - Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former county attorney Andrew Thomas are not holding back with their disapproval of the interim county attorney's recent decision to turn over 32 suspected illegal immigrants to ICE.

Former county attorney Andrew Thomas stepped down to run for attorney general. Fellow republican Rick Romley, who held the position for about 15 years, was picked to fill in as interim county attorney.

Romley enacted a new policy that requires federal paperwork before he will charge someone suspected of being in the state illegally with a felony. The sheriff is calling that new policy an amnesty plan.

At the end of April the sheriff held a crime sweep where 100 people were arrested, 75 of whom were suspected of being in the country illegally. Romley turned 32 of those suspects over to ICE.

According to Andrew Thomas, those suspects should have been charged with felonies and kept in jail.

Since 2005, Sheriff Arpaio and Thomas have been charging illegal immigrants in Arizona under the state's human smuggling law. For example, after busting an alleged coyote, the people being smuggled would be arrested as co-conspirators.

According to a statement from Romley's office, “The former county attorney was the only prosecutor in the state to bring charges of conspiracy to commit human smuggling against the individual paying to be smuggled.”

Records from federal authorities are required in order to prove immigration status at trial. County Attorney Romley wants these records to be submitted to the county attorney's office before a decision is made to file a case.

Thomas and Arpaio say they are worried what kind of impact this new policy will have on Senate Bill 1070.

Arpaio and Thomas say they consider Romley a political foe. They both mentioned Tuesday during the press conference that Romley campaigned against them in the past.