To people who say round up more illegal immigrants, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix’ Maricopa County is sending out the posse, reports the New York Times. Today, a civilian force of 300 volunteers, many of them retired deputies, will fan out over desert backcountry, watching for smugglers. Already, a small team of deputies roams human-trafficking routes to enforce a nine-month-old state law that makes smuggling people a felony and effectively authorizes local police forces to enforce immigration law. Not only do deputies charge the smugglers, but many of their customers have also been jailed. State Representative Jonathan Paton would prefer to detain smuggled immigrants under trespassing laws, a move lawmakers are considering in a package of bills intended to crack down on illegal immigration.
“I have compassion for the Mexican people, but if you come here illegally you are going to jail,” said Arpaio, an elected Republican, whose county is the fourth most populous in the country and among the fastest growing. To avoid suggestions of racial profiling, the sheriff has ordered deputies to find probable cause, usually a minor traffic infraction, before pulling over suspect vehicles. “It’s really an attempt to intimidate immigrants by threatening and imposing incarceration,” said Victoria Lopez of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. Smuggling illegal immigrants is a federal crime. Arizona adopted its law last year out of frustration that Washington had not done enough to control illegal crossings. In the eight weeks since the team of deputies formed, 146 people have been arrested, with 12 suspected of being smugglers.