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A Call to Action from Phoenix, Arizona

By Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, Unitarian Universalist (UU) Congregation of Phoenix, AZ.

Unitarian Universalists in Phoenix stand with Immigrant, Labor, and Civil Rights Groups. We demand: Stop the raids! Revoke Maricopa County's 287(g) agreement! Investigate Sheriff Arpaio!

Empowered by federal 287 (g) agreements, which give local law enforcement the power and authority to enforce federal immigration laws, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has used this authority to create an environment of fear and intimidation throughout Maricopa County. His tactics are destroying families and the larger fabric of community in the Phoenix area. Under the guise of justice, he and the Sheriff's department rely on the worst acts of profiling, discrimination and civil rights abuses. What's more, his actions fail to address the criminal problems that result from the human and drug trafficking across the border because they only serve to victimize the most powerless, easy targets.

Sheriff Arpaio's latest abuse of power involved marching detained immigrants in black and white striped prison clothes through the streets of Phoenix to the "tent city" desert prison on the outskirts of town where immigrants are segregated. Targeting the Latino community in Maricopa County is devastating to Arizona's rich multicultural heritage. His tactics intentionally target the Latino community by raiding largely Latino neighborhoods and workplaces and detaining people who cannot prove their citizenship during routine traffic violations. These tactics foster mistrust of law enforcement in the larger community, and citizen community members are afraid to speak out against him for fear of losing their jobs or being harassed.

For all Arpaio's claims of going after murderers, he is not making our community safer. The Mayor of Phoenix and the City of Phoenix Police Department have criticized Apraio for failing to address the real criminal elements associated with illegal immigration. In Phoenix in particular, crime associated with human and drug trafficking across the border is a reality. Gang activity, assault, murder, robbery and rape are all effects of illegal trafficking across the border and they are serious problems. Unfortunately, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's raids neglect the far more difficult and dangerous work of addressing these criminal elements. Rather, his tactics target people whose only crime is being in this country without papers. He is going after people with few rights, while turning a blind eye to dangerous criminals.

Our approach to immigration enforcement must balance security and humanitarianism, safety and civil rights. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is doing harm to our understanding of our diverse nation and creating a culture of fear and discrimination that jeopardizes the reasoned, thoughtful discussion we need to be having in order to move toward Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

We invite Unitarian Universalists in Phoenix, AZ, and across the country to stand with us as we demand that the federal government hold Sheriff Arpaio accountable for his actions and dissolve the 287(g) agreement with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Please visit the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA's) 287(g)/Arpaio Action Page to support the campaign in Phoenix and find ways get involved in your own community.

For more information contact la_racialjustice @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, June 3, 2010.

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