Latino Caucus backing mayor's call for federal probe of Arpaio
Associated Press
April 18, 2008

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Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/hourlyupdate/234966.php

PHOENIX Some members of the Arizona Legislative Latino Caucus are backing Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon's call for a federal probe into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's recent crime sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods.

Lawmakers say the sheriff's tactics are tantamount to racial-profiling and reflect poorly on all Arizonans, regardless of their ethnic heritage.

"When one group is under attack like this, when one group is having their civil rights violated, I believe it imperils all of us, everyone across this state and across this country," said Rep. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, who joined six other members of the Latino Caucus at new conference Thursday. "This has to be put a stop to, and I believe an investigation is fully warranted."

Arpaio said he won't be intimidated by threats from Gordon or state legislators.

"I have nothing to fear and will continue to do crime suppression. I will continue to lock up illegals," said Arpaio, who denied that he targets Hispanic communities.

The Latino Caucus said it planned to send a letter Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey requesting that the Justice Department launch an investigation into whether Arpaio's saturation patrols constitute a violation of civil rights.

Caucus members said that without federal intervention, Arpaio will continue to target Hispanic communities throughout the county, creating a hostile atmosphere that could escalate into violence.

Arpaio has conducted crime sweeps in Guadalupe and parts of Phoenix in recent weeks.

He said he'll target Mesa next and plans to bring his patrols back to Phoenix despite objections from Gordon.

In an April 4 letter, Gordon requested the Justice Department's civil-rights division and the FBI to investigate a pattern and practice of conduct that includes discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches and arrests.

Rep. Ben Miranda, a Phoenix Democrat and co-chair of the 14-member Latino Caucus, said Arpaio's sweeps have produced plenty of examples of racial-profiling of innocent citizens.

Arpaio said Gordon has joined the immigration debate to drum up publicity for a future gubernatorial bid and that Latino Caucus members need the attention to retain their seats this fall.