Arizona braces for law’s first day
Protests planned, space made in outdoor jail in readiness for thursday
PHOENIX — The sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county is making room in a vast outdoor jail and is determined to round up illegal immigrants to fill it. Police from the U.S.-Mexico border to the Grand Canyon are getting last-minute training. And protests are planned throughout Phoenix.
Arizona’s new immigration law takes effect Thursday, creating a potentially volatile mix of police, illegal immigrants and thousands of activists, many planning to show up without identification as a show of solidarity.
At least one group plans to block access to federal offices, daring officers to ask them their immigration status.
“Our message for that day is: ‘Don’t comply, don’t buy,’ ” said activist Liz Hourican, whose group, CodePink, plans to block the driveway for immigration offices in downtown Phoenix.
As both sides prepare, a federal judge is deciding whether to step in and block the law. It requires officers enforcing other laws to check a person’s immigration status if they suspect the person is in the country illegally. It also bans illegal immigrants from soliciting work in a public place.
Police across the state scrambled Tuesday to train officers, including on how to avoid racial profiling, and plan for a potential influx of detainees.
The hardest-line approach is expected in the Phoenix area, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio plans his 17th crime and immigration sweep. He plans to hold the sweep, regardless of any ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton.
Arpaio, known for his tough stance against illegal immigration, plans to send about 200 deputies and volunteers out, looking for traffic violators, people wanted on criminal warrants and others. He’s used that tactic before to arrest dozens of people, many of them illegal immigrants.
“We don’t wait. We just do it,” he said. “If there’s a new law out, we’re going to enforce it.”
He said that the space he made in the complex of military surplus tents can handle 100 people and that he will find room for more if necessary.
Elsewhere in the state, police officials said they didn’t expect any dramatic events. They were busy wrapping up training sessions this week, with some agencies saying that untrained officers will not be allowed on the streets.
Many of the state’s 15,000 police officers have been watching a DVD released this month that says signs that might indicate a person is an illegal immigrant are speaking poor English, looking nervous or traveling in an overcrowded vehicle. It warned that race and ethnicity do not.
Some agencies added extra materials, including a test, a role-playing exercise or a question-and-answer session with prosecutors.
Critics of the law among police chiefs remain, saying that the law is so vague that no amount of training could eliminate confusion.
Inmates at the Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff’s Tent City could get more company Thursday; space has been cleared for 100 more in the facility, and a crime sweep is planned even if a judge blocks Arizona’s tough new law.