Sheriff not invited to congressional hearing on 287g in D.C.

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azfamily.com

PHOENIX - Maricopa County sheriff's deputies say they are fed up with being accused of racial profiling.

Arpaio not invited to hearing

UPDATE: Thursday 8 p.m.

A U.S. House hearing took place on Thursday on local law enforcement and of federal immigration law that left Sheriff Joe Arpaio out.

The hearing focused more on local law enforcements role dealing with illegal immigration than it did on the sheriff, but still his name and jurisdiction were repeatedly referenced.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) says, "Unfortunately immigrant-bashing is a pretty popular sport in some areas."

It is exactly what a congressional committee aims to get under control by reviewing the federal immigration law enforcement policy. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) says, "It appears to some in Arizona that a witch hunt has been initiated against Sheriff Arpaio for trying to keep Arizona safeThere are more kidnappings in Maricopa County than there are in Baghdad, Islamabad or Caracas."< /p>

Arizona kidnappings primarily stem from illegal immigration. Right now the sheriff has 160 deputies trained under 287g, which is the federal program that allows local agencies to enforce federal immigrations laws but its use and its alleged abuse is the subject of debate on Capitol Hill.

Mesa Police Chief George Gascon, an open critic of the sheriff, says his illegal immigration policy is driving a wedge between the police and the people. He told congressional members, "In some cases it's setting the police profession back to the 1950s and 60s when police officers were sometimes viewed in minority communities as the enemy."

Sheriff Joe Arpaio was not invited to testify but says, "I'm not concerned. I'm going to continue to enforce the illegal immigration laws. I'll never be forced out. They can put that in their pipe."< /p>

Nothing definitive was decided on Thursday but further hearings are expected. In the meantime the sheriff remains under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

PHOENIX -- The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Thursday about a program that allows local police to enforce federal immigration laws.

The program known as 287(g) allows local agencies to arrest illegal immigrants.

Also being discussed is the conduct of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in enforcing those immigration laws.

Among those testifying was Avondale resident Julio Mora, who got caught up in an illegal immigration raid at a Phoenix landscaping company.

Mora, who is an American citizen, said he believes racial profiling was the reason he and his father ended up in the middle of the raid.

"One of the officers came up to the window and asked us where were we going," Mora testified. "We told them my dad was just going to work. The police made us get out of the car. They patted us down and tied our hands together with zip ties like we were criminals."

Mesa police Chief George Gascon is scheduled to testify at the hearing.

The committee was looking into possible civil rights violations by the Arpaio's department.

Arpaio said he was not invited to take part in the hearing and that has some people, especially in his office, raising a lot of questions.

Arpaio called the meeting a publicity stunt and said he wasn't invited because they're playing a political game.

Arpaio also called the hearing a "witchhunt."

"They want to go after me," he said. "I'm their poster boy and they want to stop local law enforcement from enforcing the federal laws."

Arpaio is being criticized for his immigration sweeps, raids on businesses and a segregated Tent City with only undocumented immigrants in it.

Arpaio said he never gets credit for the more than 23,000 illegal immigrants he's investigated or the approximately 100 murderers he's taken off the streets, who are undocumented.

Arpaio said he isn't feeling any pressure from the feds.

"The only pressure I'm under is to continue doing my job and keep locking up those that violate the law," he said. "I have confidence in my dedicated deputy sheriffs and officers. I have confidence in them and to call them racist, and me a racist, you can't get any lower than that."

If 287(g) were to be disbanded, Arpaio said he would continue conducting his immigration sweeps and enforce immigration laws whether federal or state.