JULY 26, 2007
An Arizona sheriff known for battling illegal immigration is again in trouble with so-called Latino rights groups for launching a hotline where citizens can report information about undocumented aliens.
Barely a week old, the Maricopa County hotline is indeed as hot as the sizzling Phoenix desert with about 300 messages in just a few days. They include valuable tips about day laborers, employment and even drop houses where smuggled illegal immigrants are taken immediately after crossing the border.
Latino leaders want Sheriff Joe Arpaio to immediately disconnect the hotline because they say it promotes racial profiling and perpetuates a climate of fear within the immigrant community. One prominent immigrant advocate said the sheriff has no right to investigate people based on skin color, accent or appearance.
Sheriff Arpaio points out that there is nothing unconstitutional or illegal about such a hotline and in fact federal agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have similar tip lines.
Frustrated with the lack of federal enforcement of immigration laws, Arpaio has taken matters into his own hands to help curb the growing problem in his sprawling Phoenix county of about 4 million residents.
Last year he came under fire for daring to enforce a new state law that allows prosecutors to charge illegal immigrants who pay to get smuggled into the U.S. Arpaio also created a special illegal immigrant section on the Maricopa Sheriff Department’s website that features mug shots, arrests and charges of those in the country illegally.
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