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Reality Check with Darin Damme

Updated Feb 20, 2017 - 4:42 pm

Did Sheriff Paul Penzone declare Maricopa County as a sanctuary county?

(AP Photos)

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone called an unexpected press conference late Friday night, where he announced he is “ending a policy that keeps immigrants locked up in his jails past their release date to give federal authorities extra time to launch deportation proceedings.”

In other words, the sheriff’s office will no longer conduct courtesy holds for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement so they can detain flagged immigration suspects. This is the same policy that sanctuary cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, follow.

So did Penzone declare Maricopa County a sanctuary county?

Penzone said Friday that legal action prompted the change, but wouldn’t mention any specific case. Instead, he referred reporters to the County Attorney’s Office.

But we know some facts that Penzone is not telling us.

A woman named Jacinta Gonzalez Goodman filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office in December for detaining her for a longer period of time due to an ICE hold. She was originally arrested in March for tying herself to a car in order to block access to a Donald Trump rally in Fountain Hills.

Her attorney, Ray Ybarra Maldonaldo, also represents a Mesa woman who was deported in early February after undergoing a routine check-in with ICE.

The deportation was viewed as a negative thing, with ICE rounding up mothers and separating families. But in reality, the department stated there have been no more immigration raids and deportations than usual.

The deportation is also just one example that Phoenix citizens pointed to as the Phoenix City Council voted not to become a sanctuary city last week.

Did Penzone enact this new policy in order to appease one of his biggest supporters: Investor George Soros?

In September, Penzone only had $326,000 on hand, compared to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s $2.9 million, when a group linked to Soros mounted an anti-Arpaio attack to weaken the incumbent sheriff’s bid.

But that’s not all. Gonzales Goodman was a 2011 recipient of the George Soros Justice Fellowship, according to the Soros Open Society Foundations page.

Since Penzone has been elected, he has taken a soft stance on illegal immigration. He has referred to undocumented immigrants as “guests,” stated the sheriff’s office will no longer raid businesses accused of hiring illegal workers and now, announced this new policy for Maricopa County jails.

I’ve given Penzone the benefit of the doubt that he had nothing to do with the Soros money and is a fair and impartial person since he has been elected.

But until further questions are answered, I am not convinced this is simply a legally-protective measure to shield the sheriff’s office from further lawsuits. I think this latest action, including its timing and players involved, has Soros influence written all over it.

Even though the Valley was buzzing last week over Phoenix becoming a sanctuary city, none of that matters anymore because on Friday, while nobody was paying attention, Maricopa County became a defacto sanctuary county.

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