PHOENIX - An Arizona prosecutor planned no immediate action to address federal government concerns that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office committed widespread constitutional violations and discrimination against Latinos, saying Friday that the U.S. Justice Department report wouldn't be taken at "face value."
Instead, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery criticized Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's decision to stop Arpaio from checking inmates' immigration status and argued it would allow criminals to be released into the community. Montgomery said he was asking President Obama to order the restoration of access to federal systems revoked Thursday.
The Obama administration action came after the Justice Department determined Arpaio's office participated in a "systematic disregard" for the constitutional rights of Latinos while targeting illegal immigrants, bringing the most bruising criticism yet to the lawman's foray into Arizona's immigration enforcement. Maltreatment of Spanish-speakers in the jails also violated the Constitution, federal officials alleged.
The fallout from the report was swift as Homeland Security officials announced the department was severing ties with Arpaio.
"They don't need to do this," Montgomery said at a news conference. "This effort at leverage is placing Arizona citizens at risk."
Napolitano issued a statement Thursday saying federal resources would be used to identify those "who meet U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) immigration enforcement priorities."
Department officials also are restricting Arpaio's office from using a program that uses fingerprints collected in local jails to identify illegal immigrants.
Deputies will still send fingerprints of those being booked to the FBI, which will relay them to immigration agents.
Arpaio, caught by surprise by the report's release on Thursday, called the allegations a politically motivated attack by the Obama administration that will make Arizona unsafe by keeping illegal immigrants on the street.