Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Andrew Thomas Pledges Overhaul to AZ, AG Fight V. Illegal Immigration

Thomas Pledges to Prosecute Smugglers and Illegals Statewide                     
Pinal County Sheriff Backs Thomas, Endorses Plan to Fully Enforce Human-Smuggling Laws

PHOENIX, ARIZONA APRIL 20, 2010.  In the first major policy initiative of his campaign for Attorney General, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas announced today a bold plan to take his effective prosecutions of human-smuggling cases statewide.

If elected Attorney General, Thomas proposed to prosecute all human-smuggling cases throughout Arizona—including cases against illegal immigrants who conspire to violate the state’s human-smuggling law.

In particular, Thomas would allow assistant attorneys general to be cross-deputized by county attorneys so they can prosecute these felony cases in county Superior Courts throughout the state.  He would provide these prosecution resources at no cost to the counties. Thomas added that if county attorneys are unwilling to avail themselves of this free service, he will urge the state legislature to amend the human-smuggling law to give the Attorney General jurisdiction over human-smuggling crimes so his office can handle the cases directly.
Appearing alongside Thomas at a press conference outside the state Capitol was Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.  He announced he is endorsing Thomas for Attorney General.  Sheriff Babeu also supports Thomas’ plan to prosecute human-smuggling cases statewide in the same manner Thomas has prosecuted them for years in Maricopa County.
When he resigned as Maricopa County Attorney to run for Attorney General, Thomas was the only prosecutor in the state who would prosecute both smugglers and illegal immigrants arrested for engaging in human-smuggling operations.  These cases, brought in cooperation with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, were criticized by criminal-defense lawyers and even the Mexican government starting in 2006.  However, Thomas won every major challenge to his policy of prosecuting illegal immigrants under the state’s conspiracy laws.  In 2008, the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld these prosecutions.
Illegal immigration is down in Maricopa County and throughout Arizona in large part because Sheriff Arpaio and I have prosecuted both smugglers and illegal immigrants involved in human-smuggling operations,” Thomas said.  “We need an Attorney General who will take this fight to the next level by fully enforcing the law across Arizona.”
Thomas pledged that if elected Attorney General, he will make available assistant attorneys general to prosecute human-smuggling cases in all 15 counties in Arizona.  Thomas will insist only that the human-smuggling and conspiracy laws be fully enforced in those counties, meaning that they apply to both smugglers and illegal immigrants alike.
“There is no excuse for failing to prosecute illegal immigrants for these crimes,” Thomas said.  “The law is the law, and Arizona’s courts have clearly upheld these prosecutions.”
“Our local Police and Sheriffs need the support and partnership with our prosecutors in order to enforce our illegal immigration laws and to best protect our Arizona families,” Babeu said. 
Since Thomas released his legal opinion to the Sheriff’s Office in 2005 interpreting the human-smuggling law, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has successfully prosecuted more than 1,000 defendants under the law.  The vast majority were illegal immigrants.  The conviction rate was 94 percent. 
Under Thomas’ “no-amnesty” policy, he required that all such defendants plead guilty to a felony after doing time in jail, typically about 90 days.  They are then deported and face prison time for violating their probation if they return to Maricopa County.
Thomas’ office successfully prosecuted the Baseline Killer and Serial Shooting suspects.  He is in favor of the death penalty and has been criticized by defense lawyers for his tough plea bargain policies.  He has tackled tough public corruption cases and led innovative programs to ensure better food safety and cracked down on graffiti and cruelty to animals
Thomas is a graduate of Harvard Law School.  Prior to serving as Maricopa County Attorney, Thomas served as an Assistant Attorney General for Arizona, Deputy Counsel and Criminal Justice Policy Advisor to the Governor, Special Assistant to the Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, and as Deputy County Attorney.  
During Thomas' time as Maricopa County Attorney, crime rates plummeted.  The 19 percent drop is more than twice the national rate of decline, and in despite of an 11 percent increase in the county's population during that time.  The illegal immigrant population has dropped by anywhere from 18 percent (Dept. of Homeland Security estimate) to 30 percent (Center for Immigration Studies estimate). Like the fall in crime rates, this dramatic decline in illegal immigration is far greater than the average in the rest of the nation.   
For more information on Andrew Thomas, please go to www.ThomasforArizona.com.  To arrange an interview contact Jason Rose.

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