The following is a contribution by outside blogger Gregory Sokoloff. Opinions expressed are solely those of Mr. Sokoloff.

It looks like our Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is too upset to do its job. According to a statement by the Maricopa County’s Sheriff’s Office, it recently refused to take into custody illegal aliens just because it disapproved of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s work methods.

The incident occurred shortly before Christmas when sheriff’s deputies arrested 12 illegal aliens involved in human smuggling in northern Maricopa County. It turned out that six of them could not be charged with felonies under Arizona’s human smuggling laws.

According to the statement, after realizing that, the deputies contacted ICE and asked the federal agents to take the six into their custody. The response was a flat refusal. The deputies were told by ICE officials that following a “new order from Department of Homeland Security,” ICE would not pick up these illegal immigrants, the statement said.

ICE officials were directly asked by the sheriff’s deputies if this new policy only applies to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, and the answer was, “Yes.” The deputies then contacted Casa Grande Border Patrol, which agreed to accept the illegal aliens, the statement pointed out.

The refusal prompted a sharp rebuke for the sheriff, known for his uncompromising stance on illegal immigration. “Not accepting these illegal aliens is nothing short of unannounced amnesty,” Arpaio said.

We all know that the sheriff is not on the best of terms with the federal government. In December, following a three-year investigation, the Justice Department accused the sheriff of engaging in widespread civil rights abuses, including mistreatment of Latinos and racial profiling. Arpaio has rejected the charge. But in the wake of the report, the Department of Homeland Security revoked the sheriff’s office’s authority to identify and detain illegal immigrants.

I have little appetite for sorting out the tiff between the sheriff’s office and the federal government. But in the case of ICE, it looks like politics has gotten the better of the federal agency and eclipsed its primary mission, which is to protect the border and catch illegal intruders.

Personally, I don’t care if the illegal aliens are being handed over to ICE by Fidel Castro himself or any other human rights violator of his ilk. The job of ICE is not to do political cherry-picking, but to take all the illegal aliens — regardless of where they come from — and process them as required by the law.

And if the agency decides it is too angry with somebody to do its work, maybe Congress should also get angry and cut off ICE’s funding.