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Official: Obama administration will enforce its priorities, not Arizona's

By Mike Ahlers, CNN
updated 8:31 PM EDT, Mon June 25, 2012
President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at a school in Durham, New Hampshire, on Monday.
President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at a school in Durham, New Hampshire, on Monday.
  • Ariz. governor slams end of program that let some state police enforce federal laws
  • Justice Department sets up hotline for public civil rights concerns about Arizona law
  • Official: Feds won't help Arizona arrest undocumented people unless they meet certain criteria
  • DHS priorities include convicted criminals, recent border crossers

Washington (CNN) -- Obama administration officials said Monday the federal government would not become a willing partner in the state of Arizona's efforts to arrest undocumented people -- unless those immigrants meet federal government criteria. And they said the administration is rescinding agreements that allow some Arizona law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws.

The administration made the announcement hours after Monday's Supreme Court decision on whether states can enforce immigration laws.

Issues and ruling at a glance

In a conference call with reporters, an administration official said the administration will not allow Arizona's immigration priorities to become the Department of Homeland Security's priorities.

The official said while DHS expected more calls from Arizona authorities, it will not increase staffing in Arizona to deal with them.

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"We have limited resources. It doesn't make sense ... to spend those resources in a scattershot or random fashion. Instead they need to be focused on individuals who pose a public safety threat or challenge the integrity of our borders, and going forth that is how we anticipate handling our response to ... Arizona's law," he said.

Accordingly, he said, federal officials will not respond to the scene of state or local traffic stops or similar law enforcement encounters to enforce immigration laws unless the individual meets DHS enforcement priorities. To meet those priorities, the individual must be a convicted criminal or a recent border crosser, or must have been removed from the U.S. previously and re-entered unlawfully.

DHS will continue to comply with its legal requirement to verify, by telephone, the individual's immigration status, officials said.

States affected by ruling

The administration also said it is rescinding the so-called 287(g) agreements with the state of Arizona that allowed some local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws.

Under the 287(g) program, state and local law enforcement agencies entered into a partnership with DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement and were delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions.

The program was initiated under the Bush administration, which heralded it as a top immigration enforcement tool. But the progam has fallen into disfavor with the Obama administration, which said in its 2013 budget proposal that it intended to phase out the program, an administration official said.

Five things we learned

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer responded to the end of the 287(g) agreements with an angry statement Monday.

"As though we needed any more evidence, President Obama has demonstrated anew his utter disregard for the safety and security of the Arizona people. Within the last two hours, I have been notified the Obama administration has revoked the 287(g) agreement under the authority of which Arizona law enforcement officers have partnered with the federal government in the enforcement of immigration law," the statement said.

"Since 2006, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security credits the 287(g) program with identifying nearly 300,000 potentially-removable aliens nationwide. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has trained and certified more than 1,500 state and local officers to assist in the enforcement of immigration law, including many in Arizona," the statement added. "In fact, even as the President was wiping out Arizona's 287(g) agreements, the ICE website itself continued to herald the collaborative approach of the 287(g) program, noting, 'Terrorism and criminal activity are most effectively combated through a multi-agency/multi-authority approach that encompasses federal, state and local resources, skills and expertise.'"

The Justice Department announced it has set up a telephone hotline and e-mail address for the public to report potential civil rights concerns related to the implementation of the Arizona SB 1070 provision requiring immigration status verification during certain law enforcement encounters. The hotline number is 855-353-1010 and the e-mail address is

A Justice Department official said the Arizona hotline was set up in reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling. "The hotline was not previously set up because the provision had not gone into effect," the official said.

"In Alabama, we similarly set up the hotline when its immigration law went into effect," the official said, referring to a hotline set up in that state late last year in response to Alabama's immigration reform law law.

CNN's Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

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