A statewide immigration advocacy group plans to march outside the offices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas on Friday.
The demonstrations by Immigrants Without Borders are in response to the officials’ efforts to charge illegal immigrants with conspiracy to smuggle themselves across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Advocates have accused county authorities of misusing the antismuggling law, arguing it is aimed at “coyotes,” who are paid by illegal immigrants to lead them to the U.S.
The group’s leaders hope to initiate a dialogue with Arpaio and Thomas, said Elias Bermudez, who founded the organization.
“We do not seek confrontation,” he said. “We want them to be part of the solution to a broken-down federal immigration system.”
Arpaio said he plans to meet with the demonstrators and explain he is simply enforcing state law by arresting illegal immigrants on conspiracy charges.
“If they think I’m going to stop, I’ve got news for them — they don’t know the sheriff,” Arpaio said.
Leaders of the advocacy group see it differently. They said Arpaio and Thomas are using the law to ridicule, scare and intimidate illegal immigrants.
“The unilateral efforts and hatred displayed by these abusive officials has only created more turmoil in the immigration crisis our country is experiencing and it’s extremely costly to the county taxpayer,” the organization said in a statement.
In the first court test of the law, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Thomas O’Toole on Tuesday threw out the cases of two men accused of conspiring to smuggle themselves into the country. O’Toole ruled that prosecutors failed to show that Mexican nationals Gustavo Unbalejo Gomez and Antonio Hernandez Lopez were involved in a conspiracy to smuggle themselves.
The protest outside Arpaio’s office, 100 W. Washington St. in Phoenix, is 8 to 9 a.m. The march outside Thomas’ office, 301 W. Jefferson St. in Phoenix, is 9 to 10 a.m.