Published February 04, 2009
The community organization group ACORN is protesting a decision made by the self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America" to keep illegal immigrants at tents that house prisoners, separate from the rest of the inmate population.
ACORN has lambasted Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's action, calling it a "blatant disregard for civil rights."
Arpaio announced Wednesday that he plans to accompany about 200 inmates -- along with members of the media -- from a Phoenix area jail to Tent City on Wednesday afternoon.
He says the move will save money, although he hasn't explained how other than to say it's cheaper to house inmates in tents than in traditional jails.
"Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sherriff's Department have routinely violated the civil rights of members of communities through racial profiling, retaliatory arrests aimed at silencing critics and the separation of families, while simultaneously neglecting our public safety needs," ACORN said in a statement released Wednesday.
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox agrees with ACORN, saying she thinks Arpaio could potentially be violating the immigrants' rights by keeping them separated. She said she'd like to talk to the Justice Department and have staff there issue an opinion.
Wilcox -- a frequent critic of Apraio's immigration policies -- called the move a publicity stunt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.