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Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona is at odds with the mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon. Maricopa County encompasses the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Gordon asked U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to instruct the FBI and the Justice Department's civil rights division to examine what the mayor called discriminatory harassment and improper stops, searches and arrests by sheriff's deputies in Maricopa County.
In short, Gordon alleged the civil rights of illegal immigrants had been violated.
The flap stems from Maricopa County deputies, along with trained volunteers, stopping people for routine traffic violations and asking some of them about their immigration status. The traffic stops apparently took place in largely Hispanic neighborhoods.
Gordon is not the only one who is upset with Arpaio and his deputies.
The Arizona Ecumenical Council and American Jewish Committee issued a joint letter saying the patrols in Hispanic neighborhoods "evoked a 'police state' atmosphere" and led to "detainment on the basis of a racial profile and dehumanization of innocent people."
The Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League joined the fray, too, in calling for a Justice Department investigation.
Arpaio, of course, defended the actions of his deputies and trained volunteers. He said Gordon was "degrading my office and my deputies by insinuating that they're violating all these civil laws. We don't profile."
Arpaio also accused Gordon of being out of touch with the people the mayor represents. The sheriff also accused Gordon to trying to "confuse the issue" to turn "the public against me."
To back up his points, Arpaio noted that Gordon wrote his letter to Mukasey the same day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials observed his deputies arresting residents and illegal immigrants in the town of Guadalupe and approved of the sheriff's work.
Thus, we raise the question.
Is Gordon politicizing a law enforcement concern to curry favor with a growing Hispanic population in the Phoenix area or is the mayor concerned about the rights of his constituents?
If Gordon was truly concerned with the well-being of his constituents and for all of the residents of Maricopa County, he would applaud Arpaio for doing his best to stem the out-of-control crisis called illegal immigration.
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