Immigration sweep

A sheriff's deputy processes a suspect in Phoenix after an immigration sweep on Thursday. (Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images / July 31, 2010)

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Reporting from Phoenix —
Eighty demonstrators against Arizona's tough-on-illegal-immigration policies trickled out of jails here Friday, as a local sheriff continued one of his controversial operations that critics contend targets Latinos.

The protesters had been arrested Thursday, the day the state's controversial immigration law took effect and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched his 17th sweep against illegal immigrants.

On Friday, Arpaio announced that three illegal immigrants were arrested in the sweep. During such operations, his deputies stop people for sometimes minor violations and check their immigration status.

A federal judge had barred most of the immigration law, SB 1070, from being implemented, but that didn't stop hundreds of protesters from filling the streets and engaging in civil disobedience on Thursday. Twenty-three were arrested at Arpaio's main downtown jail for blocking the entrance. Their demonstration forced the sheriff to delay his sweep for several hours.

Activists on Friday boasted that they had slowed down the tough-talking Arpaio.

"Families were not separated; the community was not terrorized," said Carlos Garcia of civil rights group Puente, who was arrested Thursday.

Friday afternoon, several activists blocked the command center Arpaio set up for his sweep, leading to more arrests for civil disobedience. "They want to go to jail, so that's where they're going," Arpaio said. "They want to keep coming, we'll lock them up."

Also Friday, Gov. Jan Brewer said the Legislature might "tweak" SB 1070 when it convenes in January to address the federal judge's concerns about the law.

For example, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton had singled out a provision requiring that every person arrested in the state be held until their immigration status is determined. Brewer's lawyer had told the judge that the sentence was "inartfully" written and should apply only to suspected illegal immigrants.

The law was already significantly narrowed once before in response to pressure from opponents. After Brewer signed the legislation in April, she accepted last-minute revisions from the Legislature. The law had required police to determine the immigration status of people they interact with whom they suspect are in the country illegally. Now it requires them to check only people they stop and believe are illegal immigrants.