PHOENIX - Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies arrested more than 36 people during the 17th crime suppression operation Thursday, day one of Arizona’s new immigration law.
Deputies said 23 of those were protesters arrested in front of a jail in downtown Phoenix.
Most of the 200 deputies and volunteers who were supposed to go on the sweep at noon Thursday had to go to the jail instead, as hundreds of immigrant rights supporters held a rally in Phoenix.
But sheriff's spokesman Brian Lee says a couple of squads were able to start the sweep Thursday afternoon and arrested 13 people for open warrants and other criminal charges. He did not know if any of them were illegal immigrants.
News of protesters blocking the jail's entrance prompted Arpaio to interrupt a press conference that was intended to kick off the sweep.
Arpaio was heard telling a sheriff's official in a phone call to arrest anyone who resists his deputies.
Around 2:15 p.m. Arpaio said on his Twitter account, "Just finished up with protesters at the jail, we will now resume our operation."
The protesters were rallying in opposition to Arizona's new immigration law.
A judge put the most controversial elements of the law on hold, but allowed other portions to take effect.
According to an MCSO press release, Arpaio plans to continue enforcing all state and federal immigration laws despite the controversy surrounding the state’s new immigration law.
"It's business as usual for this Sheriff's Office," Arpaio said. "All these protestors coming here from everywhere and the local critics aren't going to change the way Arizona or this Sheriff will fight our illegal immigration problem."
According to the release, the Thursday crime suppression sweep was named “Operation 1070”.
Arpaio said he is most interested in witnessing the number of arrests.
"Local law enforcement may find that we don't come across the numbers of illegal aliens we usually do in operations such as this because many have left the area," he said.
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