PHOENIX - Last week's release of illegal immigrants into Arizona is another example of federal targeting of the state for refusing to knuckle under on immigration policy, Gov. Jan Brewer charged Monday.
Reiterating a charge she originally leveled on Fox News, Brewer called the prisoner releases political "payback."
That follows the Department of Homeland Security's decision last year to rescind agreements it had with some local law enforcement agencies allowing them to enforce federal immigration laws, Brewer said.
"And then they're releasing what we believe are criminal illegal aliens out of jail, into our society, not knowing who they are or what they are," Brewer said. Homeland Security has refused to provide any information about the 2,000-plus prisoners nationwide who were released, beyond assurances that the agency does not consider them dangerous.
Homeland Security officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The governor acknowledged the stated purpose of the release was to deal with the automatic spending cuts under sequestration. But even if there were a legitimate budget reason for the release, Brewer said the way it was done only underscores her contention it was designed, at least in part, to punish Arizona.
The governor said she was in Washington at an event with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano the night before the release.
"And she didn't warn me or tell me anything," Brewer said of her predecessor.
She said Robert Halliday, director of the state Department of Public Safety, and Gilbert Orrantia, head of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, have contacted federal authorities seeking an exact number of people who have been released, where they had been housed, and asking for their criminal backgrounds and assigned threat levels. They're also asking if similar releases are planned in the future.
Brewer recited a list of reasons why the administration might have it in for her and Arizona:
• Her 2010 decision to sign SB 1070 to deal with illegal immigration. That drew a legal challenge from the U.S. Department of Justice.
• Her outspokenness in her opposition to the administration's policies on immigration.
• The famous finger-wagging incident last year on the tarmac of Sky Harbor International Airport when Brewer greeted the president - and had her photo snapped as the two stood nearly toe to toe, with Brewer pointing her finger at the president's face.
On StarNet: Find extensive coverage of immigration issues at azstarnet.com/border