Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched a two-day crime-suppression and illegal-immigration sweep on Monday, as dozens of protestors lined a south Phoenix street close to where the sheriff outlined the plans at a crowded press conference.
It is the second such operation since the federal government stripped Arpaio of street-level immigration patrols under the direction of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Arpaio contends he still can seek to identify illegal immigrants during street patrols using state laws against human smuggling and sanctions for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
The sheriff said his office plans to target semi-trailers and other load vehicles along alternative routes Valleywide, where human smugglers could be attempting to avoid checkpoints, such as those along Interstate 10 and Interstate 17, en route to drop houses.
“We are also noticing a significant change in travel routes,” Arpaio said. “State highways still remain the main travel paths for smugglers and their co-conspirators, but more and more vehicles are being apprehended at alternative, out-of-the-way routes.”
Arpaio said anyone who films the stops along the interstate, including what he described as “open-borders groups,” would be arrested, saying it is illegal to stop and stand unless it’s an emergency.
“These open-borders activists will be warned only once,” he said.
Dozens of protestors along Lower Buckeye Road stood with signs carrying statements, such as “We are human” and “I will not be bullied.”
During the press conference, Arpaio downplayed questions about whether he was grandstanding while Vice President Joe Biden and the national media were in town. Biden spoke in Phoenix Monday morning about the national economy.
“This is just another example of Arpaio’s lack of respect for the Obama Administration and he continues to thumb his nose at the administration,” said protestor Lydia Guzman, president of SOMOS America. Guzman was among a group of protestors across the street from the entrance of the MCSO training building.
“Arpaio’s sweep was nothing but political posturing,” she said.
Mercedes Mercado-Ochoa, a member of the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens, said she believes Arpaio is doing the sweeps just to impress the national media in town.
“He’s spending so much taxpayer money on these crime sweeps that it’s not funny anymore,” she said. “He should be held accountable to the taxpayers for the amount he is spending on these sweeps.”
The sweep will entail 200 members of Arpaio’s volunteer posse and reserves, as well as sheriff’s office deputies. Helicopters will also assist in the operation, which Arpaio said will have a%