PHOENIX – An advocate for immigrant and civil rights has started using text messages to warn residents about crime sweeps by a high-profile Arizona sheriff.
Lydia Guzman, director of the nonprofit immigrant advocacy group Respect/Respeto, is the trunk of a sophisticated texting tree designed to alert thousands of people within minutes to the details of the sweeps.
Guzman said the messages are part of an effort to protect Latinos and others from becoming victims of racial profiling by sheriff’s deputies. Deputies have been accused of stopping Hispanics, including citizens and legal immigrants, for minor traffic violations to check their immigration status.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has repeatedly said his deputies do not engage in racial profiling and that he publicizes the details of his crime sweeps ahead of time. He said he suspects the real goal of the text messages is to help illegal immigrants avoid arrest.
“This little group of people is (in favor of) open borders, and they don’t like what I am doing. That is the bottom line,” Arpaio said. “But it isn’t interfering with our operations because every time we do it, we still arrest a good number of people, including illegal aliens.”
Arpaio has conducted 13 sweeps since March 2008, and deputies have arrested 669 people, about half of whom were held on immigration violations.