Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies arrested 13 suspected illegal immigrants in Mesa on Wednesday, marking the agency’s third immigration enforcement action in Mesa in recent weeks.
Wednesday’s action near Stapley Drive and Broadway Road brought the number of suspected illegal immigrants arrested by deputies in Mesa to 31 in recent weeks as the Valley’s immigration debate continued to grow more volatile.
“Since no one else will enforce state and federal immigration laws, my deputies have gone into the city of Mesa for third time,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in a news release. “Sheriff’s deputies will continue to enforce state and federal immigration laws everywhere in the county, including Mesa and Phoenix.”
Deputies worked the area for about five hours and pulled over seven vehicles on suspicion of traffic violations, Arpaio said. All of the suspected illegal immigrants were passengers in the vehicles, and none of the drivers was arrested.
Earlier in Phoenix, more than two dozen Hispanic political and community leaders denounced Mayor Phil Gordon’s push this week for Phoenix police to enforce immigration laws in the nation’s fifth-largest city.
On Monday, Gordon announced the formation of a four-man panel to study the current departmental policy that bars police from routinely inquiring about the immigration status of people they arrest. Gordon said that policy is outdated.
“The mayor blinked from the pressure that really emanated from the Minutemen, the Ku Klux Klan and others that have taken up this battle,” said former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez.
He noted that Phoenix police Chief Jack Harris had already launched a review of the policy.
Harris’ review had yet to be completed when Gordon created his panel of former federal, state and county prosecutors.
“The mayor undercut the chief. He undercut the chief and named his own committee,” Gutierrez said. “The mayor has, in effect, created a quagmire of fear. He is acting like a bowl of Jell-O here, and the consequences of this are tremendous confusion in our community. I think we have to turn to these four gentlemen who have been named by the mayor to restore his spine and to restore rationality to the city of Phoenix.”
The four members of Gordon’s panel are former U.S. Attorneys Paul Charlton and Jose Rivera, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods and former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.
Gutierrez and other leaders charged that any change in policy will lead to racial profiling and create a gulf between Hispanic residents and police officers. Illegal immigrants will be reluctant to report crimes for fear of being deported, they said.
The community has to focus the debate on how to use police resources, said Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix.
“Do we put the focus on that maid going to work at the Marriott each morning,” he said, “or do we put the focus on the drug dealers that are selling drugs daily to kids in the streets of Phoenix, Arizona?”
“Do we put it on the pedophiles and the criminal violators, the violent criminal aspects of this community,” he said, “or do we put it on people simply because they’re subject to a traffic stop and nothing else? That’s the issue here.”
Also Wednesday, Arpaio said he plans to increase the presence of his illegal immigration interdiction unit this weekend at a Phoenix furniture store that has become the flash point of the debate.
For the past six Saturdays, demonstrators on both sides of the issue have protested outside Pruitt’s furniture store at 3425 E. Thomas Road, which has hired sheriff’s deputies to keep day laborers away.
Deputies have arrested 44 suspected illegal immigrants outside the store, including eight last weekend.