Anti-Immigration Arizona Sheriff Conducts Sweep

Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio is defying the U.S. Justice Department by conducting another of his immigration sweeps. His opponents are using the occasion to rally against his tactics. Arpaio's sweep comes a day after the federal government limited his powers to make federal immigration arrests.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

The man who calls himself America's toughest sheriff has been told to stop rounding up undocumented immigrants. But in Phoenix, Arizona today, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio defied the federal government and staged another of his now famous immigration sweeps. Protestors also took to the streets, complaining that the Fed should strip away all of Arpaio's authority.

SIEGEL: Racist sheriff, racist friends, this injustice has to end. Racist sheriff, racist...

NORRIS: NPR's Ted Robbins joins us now from Phoenix with the latest on this story. Ted, you can hear the protestors there calling Sheriff Arpaio racist. Could you help us understand the core issue in this conflict?

TED ROBBINS: Sure, Michele. The sheriff is taking part in the 287(g) Program; that's just the number of the law that authorized it. It's a federal program that trains local law enforcement officers to help enforce immigration law, federal law. And it allowed him to both hold prisoners in his jails, who were undocumented immigrants or illegal aliens. It also allowed him to make arrests through task forces on the street.

Now, the sheriff has pretty much admitted that he does racial profiling. He goes with these sweeps into Hispanic neighborhoods, will stop people because of the way they look, the way they dress. Often will stop them for minor traffic infractions and then ask them if they have proof of legal residence. And if they don't, he arrests them. And that's where the charges of racist come from because he does admit to targeting Hispanics.

NORRIS: Now, today, Homeland Security officials announced changes. Can you tell us about those?

ROBBINS: Right. What they did was DHS actually reissued after review these 287 agreements to, I believe it's 67 law enforcement agencies around the country. And Arpaio's is only one of them. Some dropped out. Some more came on. And what they said was they would have more oversight. They would have transparency and more oversight and more accountability. That's essentially what Homeland Security officials announced today.

What they did with Arpaio is they stripped him of the authority to arrest people on the street and only allowed him to do it in jail - to detain people.

NORRIS: Well, Ted, you spoke to one of the protestors today, Salvador Reza, who's calling for an end to the federal program. Let's quickly listen to what he had to say.

SALVADOR REZA: How can they say they're going to have oversight when they already have enough reasons to stop the 287(g) with Arpaio? To me it means that they really want to, you know, ramrod this. It doesn't matter how bad it is.

NORRIS: So, what impact, if any, are the protests having on this?

ROBBINS: Well, you know, what's funny is that I think they're relatively minor in protest in size, but the effect is not necessarily what's going on in the protest. What happens is the sheriff announces ahead of time where and when these sweeps are going to be, so the organizers and leaders in the Hispanic community will go and tell folks in those neighborhoods to stay off the streets.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Ted Robbins speaking to us from Phoenix. Ted, thanks so much.

ROBBINS: You're welcome.

NORRIS: And one final note, we hear that Sheriff Arpaio has no plans to stop his sweeps.

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