Planned protests prompt Arpaio to suspend jail visitations

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- With the imminent release of the Supreme Court's decision on Arizona's controversial immigration law -- SB 1070 -- a large protest is expected at Tent City Jail. Because of that, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio plans to close it, as well as the MCSO's other five jails, to visitors Saturday.

Thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend on Tent City, which was opened just northwest of 27th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road in 1993. According to MCSO, Tent City can house up to 2,126 inmates. There is a separate area for undocumented immigrants.

Opponents of Tent City have said for years that the conditions there are inhumane, especially during the summer. Proponents have pointed out that American troops on some deployments, including Afghanistan, are often housed in similar -- or even worse -- conditions.

Arpaio, an outspoken and staunch supporter of immigration enforcement who has long called himself  "America's toughest sheriff," said he would be on hand during the protest to defend his policies and practices at Tent City.

As many as 4,000 people are expected at the protest, including members of Puente Arizona and the Unitarian Universalist Association, which is holding its general assembly in Phoenix through Sunday.

A spokesman for UUA said the group wanted to protest before the Supreme Court released its ruling on SB 1070. That is expected to happen next week, possibly on Monday.

While the Tent City protest is expected to be the largest, several others demonstrations are expected throughout the Valley, including one outside the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office in Phoenix.