Maricopa County halts smuggling prosecutions


Arizona’s most populous county halted prosecutions of both smugglers and those being smuggled on Monday.

The freeze came after U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield ruled Friday that a 2005 state law doesn’t allow Sheriff Joe Arpaio or county prosecutors to charge immigrants with conspiracy to smuggle themselves across the border. Broomfield said the policy criminalizes actions that federal law treats as a civil matter.

“It is hard to imagine a more blatant conflict than that,” he said Friday in his 60-page ruling.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said the judge’s order doesn’t specifically bar prosecutions of smugglers, but the top county prosecutor said he cannot ethically allow any prosecutions under the law because Broomfield’s reasoning for his ruling may have broader implications. A lawyer for the county, Tim Casey, said it will ask Broomfield to clarify the scope of his ruling while the county considers whether to appeal.