NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. civil rights activist Al Sharpton weighed into a fight over an Arizona sheriff’s immigration sweeps on Tuesday, accusing him of racially profiling Hispanics and urging him to step down.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has dispatched deputies into Hispanic communities in the Phoenix area, where they stop people and arrest anyone who cannot prove he or she is a legal U.S. resident.
Under a deal allowing them to enforce federal immigration laws, the deputies have arrested more than 1,500 people who they determined were in Arizona illegally, triggering street protests and condemnation from Latino activists who accuse him of racial profiling.
“I am first calling for the resignation and or removal of Sheriff Arpaio ... harassment based on color is nothing short of racial profiling, which many of us ... helped to fight to make against the law,” Sharpton told reporters.
U.S. Department of Justice officials recently launched an inquiry into Arpaio’s activities. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee also held hearings last week about the federal program that allows for such enforcement tactics.
“Arpaio needs to be confronted, he needs to be removed. ... We also need to suspend the law that he is using. We must stand with our brown brothers and sisters,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton said he would travel to Arizona to make his case.
Arpaio, who has held the job since 1992, called charges he carries out racial profiling of Hispanics ridiculous.
“I‘m never going to resign,” he said. “The guy is living in a fantasy land if he thinks he is going to pressure me into anything. He doesn’t even know where Arizona is.”
Reporting by David Schwartz and Tim Gaynor; editing by Doina Chiacu