On Dec. 19, about 100 immigrant rights activists marched six miles from Pruitt’s Home Furnishings in Phoenix, Arizona, to City Hall to protest Mayor Phil Gordon’s decision to end a policy that restricts Phoenix police officers from asking people about their immigration status during routine encounters. The march took place on the day of the last City Council meeting of the year; 25 activists entered City Hall to urge the Council to oppose the policy change. “I implore you to maintain the policy so the immigrant community can maintain trust of the police,” Rev. Liana Rowe of Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona told the City Council. About 30 anti-immigrant activists held a counter-protest outside City Hall.
Activist Salvador Reza, who organized the march, accused Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of trying to intimate marchers by sending deputies to patrol areas along the route. A Sheriff’s Department van with a billboard on the side that said “stop illegal immigration” trailed protesters most of the way along the march route. Sheriff’s deputies arrested nine people in traffic stops near Pruitt’s; seven of those arrested turned out to be undocumented immigrants, according to sheriff’s department spokesperson Paul Chagolla. Arpaio is a vocal opponent of out-of-status immigrants and has had a number of his deputies trained to act as immigration officers. (Arizona Republic, Dec. 19; KTAR.com, Dec. 20)
Pruitt’s has been the site of weekly protests by rights advocates and supporters of day laborers and counter- protests by anti-immigrant activists. (AR, Dec. 19) Reza started bringing protesters to Pruitt’s to pressure the store’s owner to stop paying off-duty sheriff’s deputies to patrol his parking lot. Reza said the off-duty deputies have arrested and deported 65 immigrants in the area so far. “In essence, you have a private individual being able to implement US immigration laws,” Reza said. “That’s very dangerous and it cannot be tolerated.” Reza said his group will continue to protest outside Pruitt’s and boycott the store until the owner replaces the sheriff’s deputies with private security guards, who do not have the power to deport people. (AP, Dec. 21)
From Immigration News Briefs, Dec. 16