On August 12 2005 a new Arizona law went into effect making it, according to one report, ‘a felony punishable for up to two years in prison to smuggle humans across the border. “ The primary, perhaps only, real effect of the law so far has been to provide the sheriff of Maricopa Country, Joe Arpaio, another publicity stunt. Some time ago, he instructed his deputies to ask citizens to voluntarily submit fingerprints in order to combat the supposed epidemic of identity theft. And he has ordered prisoners, male and female, to wear pink underwear. In 2004 he told jailed illegal immigrants that they had to register for the draft. This time, Arpaio interpreted the law to mean he can round up any and all illegal immigrants and charge them with trespass, conspiracy to smuggle themselves into the United States.
The legislature passed another law making in a felony to be an illegal immigrant in Arizona. The governor vetoed it, perhaps mindful of the reality that major parts of the state’s economy could grind to a halt.
According to a May 5th AP article, a posse of 100 volunteers and sheriff’s deputies will patrol the Phoenix area and arrest any illegal immigrants, the county sheriff said. The group likely will be deployed across parts of Maricopa County by the weekend, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Wednesday. Volunteers will be drawn from the department’s 3,000-member posse, whose members are trained and are often former deputies.
“It’s important to send the message out to stay in Mexico and don’t come roaming around here hoping you’re going to get amnesty,” said Arpaio. [His] deputies have already arrested about 120 illegal immigrants using a new state smuggling law. “We’re going to arrest any illegal who violates this new law,” he said. “I’m not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico. I’ll give them a free ride into the county jail.”
Under the law, as interpreted by the Maricopa County attorney, illegal immigrants can be arrested and prosecuted for conspiracy to smuggle themselves into the country. The law’s authors have said they intended it to be used to prosecute smugglers, not the immigrants being smuggled.
Lawyers for nearly 50 undocumented immigrants charged with conspiracy to commit human smuggling have filed motions to have the charges dismissed. A Los Angeles attorney brought into the case last week by the Mexican Consul General’s Office in Phoenix plans to file another motion claiming Maricopa County Attorney officials are violating state and federal law because it’s the federal government’s job to control illegal immigration.