Friday, March 1, 2024

Text Messaging is Used to Warn Residents about Arizona Crime Sweeps

Lydia Guzman, director of the nonprofit immigrant advocacy group Respect/Respeto has started to use text messages to warn Arizona residents about crime sweeps by anti-immigrant Maricopa sheriff Joe Arpaio.

According to Guzman, the new text messaging system is part of an effort to protect Latinos and others from becoming victims of racial profiling by Maricopa police deputies.

Guzman said she sends text messages to a wide range of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, Copwatch and various immigrant-rights groups such as Somos America and Puente. She does say that some who receive the text messages likely use the information to avoid being caught and deported.

Arpaio publicizes details of his crime sweeps in advance and has conducted 13 sweeps since March 2008. His deputies have arrested 669 people, about half of whom are held on immigration violations.

The infamous sheriff suspects that the goal of text messages is to help illegal immigrants avoid arrest, “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. 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.”

Arpaio warns that immigrant advocates are walking a fine line between exercising free speech and breaking the law by helping immigration violators avoid detection. He said the texts are possibly even tipping off human-smuggling organizations.

Andy Hessick, a constitutional law professor at Arizona State University, said sending warnings to people who might be subject to racial profiling would likely be considered free speech.

Hessick says that sending messages with the specific intent of warning illegal immigrants to help them avoid arrest could be viewed as being an accomplice after a crime.

David Hudson Jr., a First Amendment scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, said the messages are protected free speech because they are merely letting people know what Arpaio is doing, similar to publicizing DUI checkpoints and speed traps or flashing your headlights when police are nearby.

“That is not unlawful,” he said. “It’s the conveyance of truthful information.”

Los Angeles Times


  1. Ryan Chavez says

    This is a smart idea. SAY NO TO JUDGE ARPAIO.