Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Bully in Phoenix

Arpaio's immigration sweeps

by Jerry Kammer - Jul. 30, 2008 12:00 AM
Republic Washington Bureau

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon escalated his feud with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday, calling on the national media to come to the Valley and observe the sheriff's crackdown on illegal immigration.

Criticizing the sweeps as heavy-handed and abusive, Gordon said he'd like to see a media mobilization comparable to the effort of the dozens of reporters who streamed to Arizona from around the country following the 1976 murder of Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles.

Their effort, which became known as the Arizona Project, produced extensive reporting on organized crime in the state.

"Come like you did for Don Bolles; come to Phoenix and stop this madness," said Gordon, who has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a civil-rights investigation. "Let's turn the eyes of the nation on this."

Gordon wants to focus attention on the department's sweeps, in which deputies check vehicles and pedestrians in a search for illegal immigrants. The measures have been widely criticized as a form of racial profiling.

Arpaio fired back in a telephone interview from Phoenix.
He doesn't have to call (on the media), because they're here every day," Arpaio said. "I've been on 3,000 national shows as sheriff. I had two different Dutch reporters yesterday. They come all the time. ... I don't need him to be my press agent."

The Gordon-Arpaio feud is a particularly volatile example of the tensions dividing communities across the country that are frustrated by the inability of Congress to pass immigration reform.

In the absence of a new federal policy, state and local jurisdictions are fashioning their own approaches to enforce immigration law.

Gordon says he favors comprehensive immigration reform, the term for legislation that attempts to package measures to deal with the major components of the immigration issue, including border security and what to do about the estimated 12 million immigrants in the country illegally.

Principal presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama favor a comprehensive approach. Both have promised to take up the issue during their first year as president. There is no expectation Congress will take it up this year.

Gordon accused the sheriff of ham-handed techniques that violate the rights of citizens caught up in Arpaio's sweeps.

He claimed the sweeps are making immigrants, legal and illegal, fearful of cooperating with police on investigations.

"He (Arpaio) has become the false messiah," Gordon said. "But when the light is shined on him, people will see that he isn't helping to fight illegal immigration and he's just making the situation worse. You've got an individual with a badge and a gun who's breaking the law and abusing his authority."

The sheriff said his efforts have received broad support from the people of Maricopa County.

"I don't have to defend myself over his vicious comments because he doesn't like me arresting illegal immigrants," said Arpaio, who is seeking his fifth term as sheriff.

He said Gordon is trying to fuel his own political ambitions.

"He wants to be governor," Arpaio said.

Reach the reporter at jkammer

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