Maricopa County Sherriff Puts Target on Victims Head

This is truly outrageous and goes against everything we know is right for public safety.

The Business Journal of Phoenix - by Mike Sunnucks -- Friday September, 28

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has been questioning some crime victims and witnesses about their immigration status.

Those inquiries raise questions as to whether Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office is treating Hispanics differently from other ethnic groups, and how that might impact MCSO investigations involving immigrants.

Such actions also spark fears that immigrants might not report crimes or cooperate with criminal investigations for fear they or their families could face scrutiny regarding their legal status.

MCSO spokesman Paul Chagolla acknowledged that crime victims and others involved in such matters are asked about their immigration status during some investigations.

"In the course of our duties, we may come across situations where a person's immigration status comes into question. In these instances, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's ICE-trained deputy sheriffs will investigate and take any appropriate law enforcement action that is necessary," Chagolla, an MCSO captain, said in a statement to The Business Journal.

Arpaio has been aggressive in enforcing a state human smuggling law that originally was aimed at organized crime outfits. The sheriff has arrested illegal immigrants under that statute. His office also has been working with Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency on illegal immigration matters.

More than 1.1 million people in Maricopa County -- about 29 percent of the 3.8 million population -- are Hispanic, and an additional 14 percent are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The vast majority of the state's estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants are from Mexico.

Mike Manning, managing partner of the Phoenix law office of Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP and a frequent Arpaio critic, said he's received several calls from crime victims saying MCSO officers had questioned their immigration status. Manning said he is disturbed by such inquiries of victims, but said that all his law office has received thus far are telephone complaints.

Several Hispanic advocates also report receiving information on MCSO questioning crime victims.

On Thursday, Arpaio's office arrested nine illegal immigrants in Cave Creek, near a day labor center. The controversial sheriff also runs a hotline for tips regarding illegal immigration and smuggling, and is recruiting police officers from other departments to promote his get-tough approach to the immigration issue.

In general, local police departments do not inquire about the immigration status of crime suspects, let alone the status of victims. Such policies have come into question since the recent killing of a Phoenix Police officer by an illegal immigrant from Mexico.