Long gap in Arizona sheriff’s immigration patrols

Jun 5, 2012, 10:17 PM

Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) – The Arizona sheriff known for his hardline stance on illegal immigration has gone months without using his most controversial law enforcement tactic.

Critics of America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff say legal pressure has led Joe Arpaio to suspend his immigration sweeps. But the Maricopa County lawman says his opponents have it all wrong.

“I haven’t stopped anything,” Arpaio said. “I don’t know why anybody thinks we stopped.”

The special immigration patrols are at the center of two separate federal lawsuits, one from the U.S. Justice Department, accusing Arpaio’s office of discriminating against Latinos.

During the sweeps, as many as 200 deputies and volunteer posse members flood a designated area, making dozens of traffic stops and arrests. The enforcement zones are sometimes in areas with a large Hispanic population. Illegal immigrants account for nearly 60 percent of the approximately 1,500 people arrested in the 20 sweeps Arpaio has launched since January 2008.

It’s been nearly eight months since the last such patrol, marking the longest pause in more than four years.

Arpaio said the break isn’t unusual. He added that the news media have not reported about immigration arrests made during more routine patrols by his deputies.

“I am not backing down regardless of them taking me to court,” he said. “I am still enforcing immigration laws. They are being arrested and are going to jail.”

But Arpaio’s critics, such as the ACLU of Arizona, say he has backed away from the patrols because they make it more difficult to defend against the lawsuits that say his deputies racially profile Hispanics in immigration enforcement efforts.

“It’s not in his best interest to conduct these high-profile sweeps before he is put on the stand to defend his practices,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.

The sheriff’s office completed its last sweep in southwest Phoenix in October. Previously, the longest break was a six months stretch during the first half of 2009, when civil rights officials with the Department of Justice told the sheriff they were investigating him.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit last month saying the sheriff’s office carried out a pattern of discrimination against Latinos in his sweeps and had a culture of disregard for basic constitutional rights. Arpaio is accused of launching some sweeps based on citizen letters that complained about people with dark skin congregating in a given area or speaking Spanish but never reported an actual crime.

The department is seeking an agreement requiring the sheriff’s office to train officers in how to make constitutional traffic stops, collect data on people arrested in traffic stops and reach out to Latinos to assure them that the sheriff’s department is there to also protect them.

A second lawsuit focusing on the patrols is scheduled for trial next month in federal court. The handful of Latinos who filed the suit say officers based some traffic stops on the race of Hispanics in vehicles and made the stops solely to check their immigration status. The plaintiffs aren’t seeking money. Instead, they want Arpaio to enact changes to guard against what they said is discriminatory policing at his agency.

Arpaio is fighting both lawsuits, denying the charges and saying his patrols are within the law.

In December, a judge considering the lawsuit brought by two groups, including the ACLU, on behalf of the Latinos who say officers pulled them over with no probable cause ruled that deputies enforcing Arizona’s immigrant smuggling law cannot detain people based solely on the suspicion that they’re in the country illegally. Arpaio has appealed that decision.

In that same ruling, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow noted the case’s evidence could lead a judge or jury to conclude that Arpaio’s office racially profiles Latinos.

The sheriff remains defiant. He vowed to launch another sweep in the future and said he is still raiding businesses suspected of hiring illegal immigrants and arresting suspects in more routine traffic stops along roadways that are known smuggling routes.

“I am not backing off,” he said. “You can tell all the critics, `Look at the statistics, and look at all the illegal immigrants we have arrested.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Associated Press

Oregon justice fires panel due to lack of public defenders

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s chief justice fired all the members of the Public Defense Services Commission on Monday, frustrated that hundreds of defendants charged with crimes and who cannot afford an attorney have been unable to obtain public defenders to represent them. The unprecedented action comes as Oregon’s unique public defender system has come […]
15 hours ago
FILE - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, flanked by Defense Secretary Gen. Luis Cresce...
Associated Press

Mexico’s week of drug violence shakes administration

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Days of widespread drug cartel arson and shootings in four states last week have left Mexicans asking why the drug cartels exploded and what do they want. The attacks killed 11 people, including a young boy and four radio station employees who were randomly shot on the streets of the border […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Airplane part falls from sky, nearly hits man in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A metal object believed to have fallen from a trans-Atlantic jet came crashing down outside the Maine State House, landing with a loud bang just feet from a Capitol Police worker, officials said Monday. The Federal Aviation Administration was alerted Friday and returned to the State House on Monday as it […]
15 hours ago
From left U.S. Democrat Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, left, and Democratic House member John Gar...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Why US lawmakers’ Taiwan trips keep riling China

WASHINGTON (AP) — Taiwan is high on the summer travel list for U.S. members of Congress on their August recess this year, as U.S. lawmakers make a point of asserting American support for the self-governed island despite objections from China. The payoff photos from this week’s five-member congressional visit, like that of House Speaker Nancy […]
15 hours ago
An aerial view of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen Wednesday, Aug. 10, 202...
Associated Press

Feds oppose unsealing affidavit for Mar-a-Lago warrant

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Monday rebuffed efforts to make public the affidavit supporting the search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s estate in Florida, saying the investigation “implicates highly classified material” and the document contains sensitive information about witnesses. The government’s opposition came in response to court filings by several news organizations, […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

US offers more monkeypox vaccine to states and cities

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. officials said they are able to ship out more monkeypox vaccine doses than previously planned — because of a strategy shift that allows more shots to be drawn from each vial. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had previously anticipated allowing 221,000 doses to be ordered starting Monday. […]
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
Long gap in Arizona sheriff’s immigration patrols