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Sheriff Paul Penzone details meetings with federal enforcement agencies

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone took a visit to the nation’s capital recently, where he met with the heads of different federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol.

Penzone said the visit with Immigration and Customs Enforcement served as a relationship-building one, with discussion largely based around the lack of courtesy holds.

Courtesy holds allowed county officials to keep immigrants locked up past their release date to give federal authorities extra time to launch deportation proceedings. Penzone stopped the practice in 2017.

“Historically, when I first took office, there were some challenges with the courtesy holds and it put a little bit of a strain on our relationship,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos. 

“And I just wanted to make sure we revisited that to try to restore the relationship.”

Penzone said the federal agency understood that the county was prohibited by the courts to be involved in enforcing immigration laws, but appreciated the fact that they get to be housed in the jails as a means of vetting inmates.

“They expressed great appreciation that having the access and the ability to take [immigrants] into custody safely is working,” Penzone said.

While Penzone said he believes the federal agency will never be “cool” with the lack of courtesy holds, he thinks they are understanding and want to move forward with quarterly meetings.

“There’s a clear understanding of what my role and responsibilities are and my limitations on that. They know what we do not facilitate or participate on the immigration side.”

Penzone said his conversation with the head of Border Patrol revolved mainly around drug trafficking and what the county can do to crack down on it.

“We are one of the main veins coming across the border, through Maricopa County and through the rest of the nation for drug trafficking,” Penzone said.

Border Patrol wanted to know “is there a common ground where we could work together to stop the flow of drugs into our nation through this process and through this route?”

Overall, Penzone regarded the meetings as positive and hinted toward future partnerships with the agencies.

“We’re outside the scope of immigration enforcement but there are still other crimes that are committed through that process and drug trafficking is a major one,” he added.

“So we have to have partnerships and we have to have open communication.”

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