Matt Salmon Stands With Sheriff Joe Arpaio To Announce Immigration Enforcement Bill

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 8:32pm
Updated: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 8:57pm
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Jude Joffe-Block/KJZZ
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio hosted Rep. Matt Salmon's Tuesday press conference.

Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon is criticizing the Obama administration for not always detaining unauthorized immigrants accused of committing crimes.

Salmon announced a new enforcement bill he co-authored at a Tuesday press conference hosted by local illegal immigration opponent, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The congressman calls the bill the Stop Catch and Release Act, or Grant’s Law. That’s for 21-year-old Grant Ronnebeck who was allegedly killed by an unauthorized immigrant from Mexico.

Ronnebeck’s accused murderer, Apolinar Altamirano, was in deportation proceedings but wasn't held in immigration detention despite a previous burglary conviction. Deportation cases for non-detained immigrants can take years due to a backlog in immigration courts.

Salmon said his proposed legislation will prevent the release of immigrants accused of certain crimes who are awaiting an outcome in their deportation cases.

“If law enforcement has to let them go, because a court orders them out on bond, then [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] will take custody of them until their deportation proceedings are done,” Salmon said.

Last year, Maricopa County courts began granting bail to some unauthorized immigrants charged with felonies for the first time in years. A federal appeals court mandated the change when it struck down a voter-approved law known as Proposition 100 that had banned all unauthorized immigrants arrested for certain crimes from getting bail.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the ruling.

At Tuesday’s press conference at the Sheriff’s Office headquarters, Salmon was surrounded by Ronnebeck's family members and Arpaio stood by his side.

Salmon thanked Arpaio for alerting him to a so-called “revolving door” of unauthorized immigrants reappearing at the jail on new charges even after being placed in deportation proceedings.

Arpaio said that according to his own count, his office turned over 5,000 immigrant inmates to ICE for deportation in the past year and a half, and 38 percent of those same immigrants were later rebooked into the jail on new criminal charges.

“There is something wrong either at the border or they are letting these people out on the streets,” Arpaio said. “I tend to think they are letting them out on the streets.”

Immigration detention costs the federal government on average over $130 per day per detainee. Arpaio complained the Department of Homeland Security had not responded to his letters on the subject.

“I’m not saying everyone coming from Mexico is a criminal," Arpaio said. "But those that are, the least we can do is deport them and get them out of the country."

Arpaio, however, has encountered legal problems for enforcing federal immigration law when he didn’t have the authority to do so and ignoring a court order to stop.

But Salmon said he had no reservations about working with Arpaio on this issue.

“I’m proud to be working with Sheriff Arpaio,” Salmon said. “In fact I think when it comes to dealing with law enforcement, he doesn’t hang his head to anybody.”

The Obama administration has called deporting serious criminals a priority. Still, some critics say those efforts have also wound up targeting minor offenders or immigrants with old convictions. 

The Department of Homeland Security recently launched its Priority Enforcement Program, which is a collaboration with local law enforcement to identify immigrants for deportation who have already been convicted of certain crimes.