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Sheriff Paul Penzone says office will work ‘ethically’ with ICE on detainees

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PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said Thursday his office had a legal responsibility to facilitate immigrant custodial exchanges with federal agencies, the day after dozens of people blocked the entrance to one of his jails in protest.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement can interview immigration detainees at county jails who have been flagged for charges including murder, aggravated assault and DUI.

Protesters and Democratic politicians have called for the closure of the agency.

“It is a legal responsibility, in my perspective,” Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News.

Penzone’s office, he said, does not participate in what is known as “courtesy holds,” when ICE agents could take up to 48 hours before picking up a detainee from a county jail.

“If (ICE) has flagged someone and they say it is who has potentially entered unlawfully, has committed a state crime and they want to take custody, they can do so, with the understanding we will not detain that person any further because by law we are not allowed to,” he said.

“(Courtesy holds) were deemed to be unlawful.”

Penzone’s predecessor, Joe Arpaio, had allowed courtesy holds.

Protesters chained themselves to the entryway of the Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix on Wednesday. Four were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Activist Cynthia Diaz said during the protest, “Penzone is currently collaborating with ICE in the jail systems, and we know he has the power to stop that,” she said, “and he’s not doing that.”

“We will do it ethically,” Penzone said of turning over inmates suspected of entering the country illegally, “and we will do so in partnership (with ICE).”

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