The Obama administration said Monday it is suspending existing agreements with Arizona police over enforcement of federal immigration laws, and said it has issued a directive telling federal authorities to decline many of the calls reporting illegal immigrants that the Homeland Security Department may get from Arizona police.
Administration officials, speaking on condition they not be named, told reporters they expect to see an increase in the number of calls they get from Arizona police — but that won’t change President Obama’s decision to limit whom the government actually tries to detain and deport.
“We will not be issuing detainers on individuals unless they clearly meet our defined priorities,” one official said in a telephone briefing.
The official said that despite the increased number of calls, which presumably means more illegal immigrants being reported, the Homeland Security Department is unlikely to detain a significantly higher number of people and won’t be boosting personnel to handle the new calls.
“We do not plan on putting additional staff on the ground in Arizona,” the official said.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Arizona may not impose its own penalties for immigration violations, but it said state and local police could check the legal status of those they have reasonable suspicion to believe are in the country illegally.
That means police statewide can immediately begin calling to check immigration status — but federal officials are likely to reject most of those calls.
Federal officials said they’ll still perform the checks as required by law but will respond only when someone has a felony conviction on his or her record. Absent that, ICE will tell the local police to release the person.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said the court’s decision frees police up to perform immigration checks. In anticipation of the ruling, she issued an executive order calling for guidance to be issued to every police department on how to fairly carry out the law.
“We will move forward, instructing law enforcement to begin practicing what the United States Supreme Court has upheld,” she said.
But the Obama administration is under pressure from immigrant-rights groups to cut down on the number of people it is deporting and has taken a number of steps to try to limit deportations of rank-and-file illegal immigrants and focus instead on those with criminal records or repeated immigration violations.
Last week, Mr. Obama said he would halt deportations for most illegal immigrants under 30 who were brought here as children.
On Monday the administration officials also said they are ending the seven 287(g) task force agreements with Arizona law enforcement officials, which proactively had granted some local police the powers to enforce immigration laws.
The task forces, named for the section of law that allows them, have proved popular among many localities but have been a political headache for the Obama administration, with immigrant-rights groups saying they led to abuses.
On Monday the administration officials said they had concluded the seven agreements they had signed with various departments in Arizona weren’t working and took the Supreme Court’s ruling as a chance to scrap them.