Talking Points Memo notes that even though Sheriff Paul Babeu and his ex-boyfriend Jose Orozco say Orozco was in the country legally, he may have been illegally pushing the limits of a tourist visa:
But as the Arizona Daily Star first noted, US tourist visas generally allow foreign visitors to be in the country for no more than six months at a time. The visas may not expire for a decade, but that doesn’t mean the person is allowed to stay in the United States for more than half a year at a time.
That could be problematic for Orozco, who previously told the Phoenix New Times that he began dating the sheriff in 2006. And it could be equally troublesome for Babeu, who told CNN that he and the man dated for three years.
Prominent immigration attorney David Leopold, who has practiced in Ohio for about 20 years, told TPM that it’s highly unlikely that immigration authorities would have allowed Orozco to stay in the United States with a tourist visa for three to six years.
He said it’s possible Orozco could have stayed for six months, returned to Mexico for a brief time and then asked US immigration authorities to let him come back for another six month stay. But he wouldn’t be able to carry that on for years.
This could pose some problems for Babeu, Leopold adds:
According to US law, it’s a crime to knowingly harbor an undocumented immigrant. A strict reading of the law, Leopold said, would include some of the typical things that couples do, like driving together in a car.
Most of the time, authorities wouldn’t prosecute the boyfriend or girlfriend of someone who has problems with his or her immigration status. But in this case, Babeu is in a position of law enforcement, someone trained to know better. Moreover, he has made a career out of being a hardliner on the subject. A prosecutor and judge would likely hold the sheriff to a higher standard, Leopold said.
“I think the sheriff’s got a problem if that’s what was going on. He’s got a big problem,” Leopold said. “If they indicted him and charged him, there might be some meat to it.”