Federal agents on Monday night took into custody two suspected illegal immigrants stopped by Arizona sheriff's deputies – marking the first known time they have worked together on such a case since the Supreme Court ruling last week that upheld part of the state’s controversial immigration law.
The high court, while striking down most of the contested provisions, upheld a key part of the law that allows police to try to determine the immigration status of people stopped or arrested if reasonable suspicion arises that they're in the country illegally.
However, the Department of Homeland Security later announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would only respond to Arizona calls that meet very specific criteria.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the incident Monday was the first such post-ruling encounter and that it involved two suspected illegal immigrants arrested during a traffic stop by his department’s Human Smuggling Unit.
He said the deputies called regional ICE agents after determining the suspects were in the country illegally.
"I am very happy that ICE is continuing to cooperate with our efforts in detecting illegal immigration activity,” Arpaio said.
Violating Arizona human-smuggling laws is a felony.
One of the suspects put in federal custody was an unaccompanied 16-year-old. Arpaio said his department has recently encountered several cases in which children were found to be smuggled into the country illegally.
Arpaio said after the high court ruling that he anticipated continued cooperation from ICE on such cases but predicted requests for assistance in other type cases would go unanswered.
"At least the federal government recognizes the fact that in this case my deputies are qualified to ask certain questions and make a determination of a person’s immigration status without racially profiling,” he said.
Separately, Arpaio continues to battle a federal lawsuit filed by the Justice Department accusing him of racial profiling in his immigration patrols.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.