Penzone: Maricopa County not seeing effects of recent immigration concerns
PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said Thursday the county hasn’t seen any specific spikes in areas that correlate to recent border-related developments that have concerned lawmakers.
The comments follow Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday meeting with federal and state officials to discuss immigration issues and express concerns about several developments at the border.
The number of people caught attempting to cross the border is at the highest level since before the COVID-19 pandemic and on track to hit a 20-year high.
Part of the hourlong meeting included how local law enforcement agencies and communities are being affected by a recent increase in illegal immigration.
Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad that crime numbers have been relatively stable in the county, adding there is currently an average 4,500 to 5,000 inmate population per day. That marks a decrease from 7,500 to 8,000 before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Penzone said.
“There isn’t necessarily a surge specifically in that particular area,” Penzone said, adding he checks the crime numbers daily.
“It doesn’t mean this issue doesn’t exist,” Penzone said. “But are we feeling the effects right now? No. I don’t see anything to that extent.”
Ducey said immigration issues have a high sense of urgency and his concern is it will get dramatically worse before it gets better, calling the issue a “crisis.”
Freshman Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona echoed Ducey, telling KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Thursday the swell of migrants at the border is a crisis.
Penzone agreed with Ducey and Kelly, but said it’s not a recent development.
“It didn’t start yesterday, it didn’t start under any one particular administration,” Penzone said, adding it all comes back to politics. “It’s just those who are responsible to push us forward on the challenge have either made excuses or drawn political lines to the detriment of our nation as well as the opportunity for immigrants to come here and thrive in some capacity.”
“This is a crisis that has been a problem for a long period of time and the crisis is beyond just the idea of people unlawfully crossing the border – which is unacceptable,” Penzone added.
He said the country has failed to address the problem of immigration reform, including having processes that are more expeditious and fair.
This includes, Penzone said, doing a better job of separating issues of criminal nature as opposed to those who will “trek across the desert sometimes at the expense of their own lives to try to get to a place where they feel there is a better opportunity for their families.”
“In this nation when we put our minds together, we are capable of accomplishing a lot,” Penzone said. “The idea or the challenge of having a crisis right now that has been in existence for far too long is unacceptable and it falls on those who are responsible to initiate the opportunity to develop solutions.”
“We need to get to work on it, the time for excuses has come and gone,” Penzone added. “So let’s take this issue and let’s correct it.”
Ducey, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida – a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – and several state lawmakers will tour the border in Douglas on Friday and discuss border security in a roundtable meeting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.