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Sheriff Paul Penzone: Separating families is ‘taking the low road’

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said the practice of separating children from families at the border is “taking the low road” and is “not the right way to go about business.”

In an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac and Gaydos Tuesday, Penzone said that he does not believe the tactic will lead to a beneficial outcome.

“I don’t get why [the Trump administration thinks] that separating them will increase or enhance security on the border, unless it is just to intimidate families that we’re going to take your kids from you — which is really, I didn’t think that’s what we stood for as a nation,” he said.

“There are a lot of things we can do that we can justify to say they are deterrents, but is that really who we want to be, ethically or morally, as people?”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement last month that the government would criminally prosecute everyone who crosses the U.S.-Mexico border illegally has led to the breakup of hundreds of migrant families and sent a new group of thousands of young children into the government’s care.

More than 2,300 minors were separated from their families at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The government has contradicted itself on exactly why this policy is necessary, with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen saying Monday that the policy is not about deterrence. But Steven Wagner with the Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families saying the administration expects it to “result in a deterrence effect.”

President Donald Trump has used the policy to push lawmakers — particularly Democrats — to enact new legislation on border security in a Republican-held Congress.

Penzone said it is “not the right way to go about business” to separate families as a political means in order to reach a desirable end.

“We can still keep families and children with their families and address this issue because there are other things we need to do tactically, structurally, technology, staffing-wise to get it done and this is just a cheap way to get there.

“As moral people, it’s taking the low road and we know it,” Penzone added.

“I’ve seen the same things in other circumstances where the ends justify the means and that always tears away at the fabric of our integrity. If you’re going to do it the right way to get to that outcome, you’ll always stand the test of time. If you’re not, you’re going to cheapen it and diminish and tear away from from the fabric of your integrity and your ethics, which is unacceptable.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.