Immigrant Rights Activists Urge More Oversight of Arpaio

AP, June 20, 2008

Protesters made sure their voices were heard when they tried to pressure the Maricopa Board of Supervisors to monitor more closely Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s enforcement of immigration laws.

The raucous show by Arpaio’s critics came Thursday when the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the county’s $2.4 billion budget, which included funding for the sheriff’s office.

The three-hour meeting was interrupted with bursts of applause and name-calling. At one point, Supervisor Andrew Kunasek stood and banged his gavel as protective services officers moved toward an Arpaio critic who talked past the three-minute time limit.

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Arpaio vowed he will continue to enforce all laws despite the criticism. He blamed the protest and ongoing political controversies over his immigration sweeps and on a conspiracy among Democrats Gov. Janet Napolitano, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.

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The sheriff’s office took a 5.3 percent cut, about $4.1 million, to its general budget, which primarily pays for law-enforcement patrol. About 3 percent, or $4.8 million, was cut from its detention fund, which helps pay for jail operations.

Several protesters said they were concerned with the treatment of illegal immigrants by Arpaio’s office and said his policies have created a climate of fear that makes immigrants too scared to call police for help or report crimes.

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The group walked out shortly after, shouting at the Supervisors and gathering outside with megaphones and signs.

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