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Penzone concerned that releasing migrants in Arizona will impact crime

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone says the impact of thousands of migrants being released from federal detention into Arizona hasn’t yet majorly affected local communities, but he worries about how “unprepared” the state is to manage the large numbers.

“I don’t know that we’ve already noticed a significant impact in any particular way, but let’s not forget that a lot of the areas that we patrol as a primary responsibility are going to be the rural areas,” Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos on Thursday.

“So it takes a little before they’re impacted if these populations are being dropped right in the metropolitan, in the more populated spaces such as Phoenix.”

He compared the magnitude of the situation to the relocation of victims after a natural disaster.

That desperation can lead people to break the law, whether it’s property crimes or an escalation of violence, he said.

“I’m just talking about humans in any situation in which they have to find a way to survive,” he said.

“And now you have individuals who are not lawfully in the country … who are going to pursue roots, such as employment, but you need E-Verify, which means now that you’re acquiring an identity not your own and committing a crime to do so.”

Penzone said Arizona is not ready to deal with the high numbers of people being dropped off with very few resources.

“You can’t have a volume of … humans and drop them into a population and say ‘fend for yourself’ and not think that it will affect crime rates or quality of life for that community. It will have an impact.”

He said it’s not U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s fault, though — the bigger issue of immigration and paths to citizenship needs to be addressed.

“We can’t have court processes that take two, three, four, five years to determine if somebody is going to be deported or not,” he said.

“That’s nonsense. Not only is it irresponsible, but it is also unsafe.”

Penzone called on lawmakers to stop being partisan and find solutions instead of “kicking the can down the road.”

“We have to do more to secure our border through multiple resources, not just one,” he said.

“We have to do more to get our immigration laws and processes to be current and to meet the needs of our current challenges.”

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