Sheriff Paul Penzone changes procedure on facilitating ICE courtesy holds

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(Source: 3TV/ CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/ CBS 5)

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone is changing the procedure on facilitating ICE courtesy holds.

Penzone says he will turn over immigrants found to be in violation of U.S. immigration law who are locked up in his jails to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

Penzone said in a statement late Friday that he was advised that the county has the "legal authority" to transfer those found to be in violation of federal immigration statutes to ICE agents at the jail, even after their release dates.

The rule Penzone announced Feb. 17 ended a policy by his predecessor Joe Arpaio, the longtime metropolitan Phoenix sheriff who was widely criticized for his immigration tactics.

[READ MORE: Sheriff Paul Penzone changes jail rule for immigrants]

Penzone said after meeting with ICE officials and receiving a legal review he sought from County Attorney Bill Montgomery, he agreed to the change.

In a statement released on Friday,  Penzone announced that he was advised by the county attorney's office that his deputies have legal authority to "permit the transfer of custody of individuals who are deemed in violation of federal immigration law to ICE agents inside the Maricopa County Jail facilities."

 Penzone's statement reads as follows:  

On February 17th,

I announced the change in policy in response to legal and constitutional challenges of courtesy holds on behalf of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement. This change was made consistent with the commitment of my Office to be a constitutional and law abiding Sheriff.

Upon ordering the change in policy, I committed to identify methods to facilitate enforcement operations of State and Federal law enforcement agencies. MCSO continued the practice of permitting ICE Agents to take part in the initial processing of all detainees to determine origin of citizenship.

To act as a responsible law enforcement partner we immediately established new protocols regarding notification of detainees of interest by ICE. When MCSO jail personnel receive notice from the court to process inmates for release, we immediately notify ICE Agents.

This notification usually occurs 5-7 hours prior to completion of the release process. We again notify ICE of 15 minutes prior to the completion of the release process. This practice was intended to facilitate the opportunity for ICE to detain individuals as they were released from our custody,

Although we continued to communicate with ICE, we also prioritized research for options to address concerns regarding public safety and the safety of ICE agents. We met with ICE leadership to determine an acceptable solution to facilitate transfer of
detainees. I requested a legal review by Bill Montgomery and the MCAO to ensure our practice would be legal and constitutional.

This afternoon I was advised it is within our legal authority to permit the transfer of custody of individuals who are deemed in violation of federal immigration law to ICE Agents inside the Maricopa County Jail facilities.

Following the consistent practice of notification, ICE will be responsible to respond to the appropriate MCSO detention center prior to the completion of the release process. Upon transfer of custody at the conclusion of release detention, the detainee will become the responsibility of ICE and will be immediately transferred from Maricopa County Jails to a detention center under ICEs authority.

MCSO will not detain individuals beyond the legal limit and conclusion of their release process. Should ICE fail to respond prior to completion of the process, we will be legally obligated to release them consistent with the courts order.

The priority of my office has and will continue to be on enforcing the law while promoting public safety. It is both responsible and appropriate for the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office to identify a method for the safe transfer of detainees from our custody to ICE.

This action also enhances safety for the detainees and our community as it will mitigate any potential for violence on our streets or against other law enforcement officials.

Although we have agreed on a policy and protocols to facilitate custodial transfers, custodial transfers of detainees for immigration violations will be dependent on ICEs ability to be present and prepared for the custody exchange. This agreement will commence immediately and a formal written agreement is pending.

It is still my hope that we will have thoughtful, responsible dialogue with the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and my law enforcement partners to identify constitutional, legal and safe methods to enforce the law while respecting the individual authority of our agencies and our communities.

Consistent with the urgency and actions of my office when announcing the policy change last Friday, I am notifying this community of our intentions and initiating the change in our policy immediately. It is my hope this action will promote public safety and a sense of enhanced safety for our community. I will continue to be a thoughtful partner with State and Federal agencies to identify solutions for the best interest of our common goals. This will always be done with an unwavering commitment to ethics, integrity and professionalism.

ICE responded with this statement from Henry Lucero, ERO field office director, Phoenix:

"While we are disappointed the Sheriff will not honor immigration detainers, this change is a small step in the right direction.  

ICE hasn't changed its stance; public and law enforcement officer safety is paramount.

We will continue to work together with all law enforcement agencies to keep our communities safe."

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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