Coconino Voices: Driscoll again under fire for ICE detainers

For the second time in a year, Sheriff Jim Driscoll is being sued over his policy of holding inmates suspected of being undocumented for an additional 48 hours after they have paid bail or served their sentences so that ICE agents have time to drive up from Phoenix and place them in immigration detention. And for the second time, he has, at the expense of County taxpayers, retained an expensive Phoenix law firm to defend this policy.

Sheriff Driscoll has taken the position that he is legally bound to honor ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainers to hold inmates for pick-up. But on what grounds? In the first lawsuit (Tenorio-Serrano v Driscoll, et al.) Judge Campbell ruled that though Driscoll’s defense argued state law required him to honor these detainers, in fact, “none of the statutes appear to support this assertion.” The judge made it clear that Sheriff Driscoll’s policy of cooperating with ICE is purely discretionary. It is not required by law.

This is clear if we look at how ICE warrants are treated elsewhere in the state. Neither Sheriff Penzone in Maricopa County nor Sheriff Napier in Pima County honor ICE detainers. If it were a matter of state law, their policies would be the same as Sheriff Driscoll’s.

Sheriff Driscoll has also sought to justify his policy by saying that his policy keeps the community safe. He has not presented any statistics to back up his claim. In fact, numerous national studies show that so-called “secure” or “sanctuary” cities do not have higher crime rates. On the contrary, several studies indicate that immigrant-friendly cities and counties may be safer, due to the fact that there is greater trust and cooperation between residents and law enforcement.

There is no evidence or reason to believe that Driscoll’s current policy is doing anything to reduce crime. It may very well be contributing to it since members of the immigrant community fear any interaction with law enforcement. Child abuse, sex trafficking, and domestic abuse are now under-reported, according to a national study, and a majority of police officers report “an adverse impact on officer safety.” [ACLU, 2018]

Nationwide, the fastest growing segment of individuals apprehended by ICE are individuals without any prior criminal past. Most of the people Driscoll is handing over to ICE have been accused — not convicted — of traffic violations, e.g., driving without a license, DUI, improper lane change, etc. Being in this country without documents, it should be noted, is not a criminal offense. It is a civil offense. The individuals being handed over to ICE are not dangerous criminals. If they were, they would not be turned over to ICE until after they had been tried in court and, if found guilty, served time in prison.

Under the direction of the current administration, ICE no longer prioritizes dangerous criminals. Everyone without documentation is a target. The expressed purpose of this new policy is to instill fear, and it is succeeding, especially among children. It is a policy that is separating families and hurting members of our community. Mr. Driscoll’s policy of cooperation with ICE contributes to this climate of fear in our local community.

The mission statement of Coconino County Sheriff’s office says that “we earn and maintain the public’s trust and confidence through our integrity and professionalism.” Regretfully, Sheriff Driscoll’s discretionary policy of honoring ICE detainers undermines this goal. It is time for Sheriff Driscoll to end this policy.

From AZ Daily Sun by MARCUS FORD Feb 7, 2019

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