Sheriff's patrols to target illegals - East Valley Tribune: News

Sheriff's patrols to target illegals

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Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2008 7:52 pm | Updated: 9:10 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Sheriff's deputies and immigrant advocates are on a collision course that will send them to two busy intersections in Phoenix where day laborers gather.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he plans to dispatch nearly 200 deputies and armed posse members to the areas to patrol for possible criminal activity by illegal immigrants starting today.

Immigrant advocates countered that they're sending observers armed with video cameras to monitor law enforcement officials for civil rights violations.

The sheriff's office operation is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at 32nd Street and Thomas Road, less than a mile from M.D. Pruitt's furniture store, where a similar operation resulted in heated exchanges and attracted national headlines last year.

Arpaio will also send patrols to 32nd Street and Bell Road two or three days later, though a specific date has yet to be determined.

Arpaio said he welcomed the scrutiny.

"They have the right to do what they want to do. Bring all the cameras they want. I hope it's in color," he said.

However, if the observers disobey any laws, deputies will arrest them, too.

"We don't distinguish between activists or anybody else," Arpaio said.

Lydia Guzman, a spokeswoman for Respect Respecto, said trained observers will be there to document whether law enforcement officials have probable cause before making any arrests, note any abuse, and inform individuals of their rights.

Guzman and leaders for several other Hispanic activist groups and the American Civil Liberties Union outlined their intentions during a news conference in downtown Phoenix on Thursday.

In the past, Arpaio and his deputies have simply targeted people who look brown, Guzman told the Tribune.

"Who else would he suspect that might be undocumented?" she asked.

"He goes in there and he pulls over people for no reason or he makes up a reason like, 'Oh, you have a cracked windshield,' or 'There's a light on your license plate that's loose.' Those are petty reasons," Guzman said.

Once deputies are in contact with suspected illegal immigrants, they investigate the suspects' immigration status, she said.

The patrols are in response to business owners who have complained about an increase in crime and interference with their business operations, Arpaio said.

The sales manager of Itty Bitty Motorsports, a dune buggy retailer at 2520 E. Bell Road, said crowds of day laborers and demonstrators protesting illegal immigration raise safety concerns.

"With people all over, they're not blocking the entrances or anything, but as you're pulling into one of these business, people are slowing down and rather than paying attention to where they're going, they're watching the people," said a sales manager, who declined to identify himself because he said he didn't want publicity.

Just the presence of deputies may be enough, Arpaio said.

"If it is a crime deterrence and we don't arrest anybody, I think that we accomplished our mission," he said. "If we don't and we have to arrest people, even if they're illegal, then we're going to do it."

During last year's operation near Pruitt's at 3425 E. Thomas Road, deputies arrested 134 people over the course of several weeks. Authorities determined 94 of the people who were arrested were in the country illegally.

Phoenix Police Department has no plans to place officers on the scene, said Detective Stacie Derge, a police spokeswoman.

She noted that the sheriff's office has jurisdiction across the county and is therefore entitled to conduct activities in Phoenix

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