Text messages alert on crime sweeps

Jan. 3, 2010 at 5:37 PM
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PHOENIX, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- A civil rights activist says she is fighting back against controversial crime sweeps aimed at illegal immigrants in Arizona, using text messaging as a weapon.

Lydia Guzman's texts warns thousands of contacts when Maricopa Country Sheriff Joe Arpaio conducts sweeps that critics say are an excuse to round up illegal immigrants, The Arizona Republic reported Sunday.

Guzman says the text alerts are meant to protect Latinos from racial profiling by sheriff's deputies, often accused of stopping Hispanics for minor traffic violations to check immigration status, the newspaper reported.

Sheriffs have conducted 13 sweeps since March 2008, making 669 arrests, about half of them for immigration violations, the paper said.

Complaints of racial profiling by deputies have generated civil-rights lawsuits and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.

Guzman's texts warn some of her contacts to avoid the sweeps area. She also alerts those who take video cameras to the scene to record incidents or protest the actions, the Republic reported. It is unclear who is on Guzman's contact list.

Arpaio said he suspects Guzman's group of contacts is trying to help illegal immigrants avoid detection.

"This little group of people is (in favor of) open borders, and they don't like what I am doing. That is the bottom line," Arpaio said. "But it isn't interfering with our operations because every time we do it, we still arrest a good number of people, including illegal aliens."

Experts are weighing in on the legality of Guzman's actions.

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