PHOENIX - Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is calling on the FBI to investigate whether the sheriff of Arizona's most populous county has violated any civil-rights laws in recent crackdowns on illegal immigrants.
In an April 4 letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Gordon asked the agency and the Justice Department's civil-rights division to probe what he called discriminatory harassment and improper stops, searches, and arrests by sheriff's deputies in Maricopa County, which encompasses the greater Phoenix area.
Justice Department officials said they would review Gordon's letter but declined further comment.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said it's ironic that Gordon wrote the letter the same day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials observed his deputies arresting residents and illegal immigrants in the town of Guadalupe, and approved of the sheriff's work.
"I think the mayor is disconnected from the people he represents and he doesn't get the point," Arpaio said Saturday. "Now he's going to Washington to confuse the issue and try to get the public against me. It's not going to work. I've done nothing wrong."
In the past month, sheriff's deputies and trained volunteers have gone into neighborhoods with large Hispanic populations, pulling over people for routine traffic violations and asking some of them about their immigration status. Dozens of illegal immigrants have been detained by the federally trained deputies.
ICE officials say Arpaio is not violating the formal agreement he has with their office that allows sheriff's deputies to enforce immigration laws.
The "saturation patrols" have sparked an outcry from civil-rights and immigrant-rights advocates and emboldened Arpaio's supporters. They've also won praise from some Arizonans fed up with government inaction on illegal immigration.
In his letter, Gordon asks that Arpaio be investigated for possible violations of four laws, including the Civil Rights Act and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act.
"Over the past few weeks, Sheriff Arpaio's actions have infringed on the civil rights of our residents," Gordon wrote. "They have put our residents' well-being, and the well-being of law enforcement officers, at risk."
Gordon declined to discuss his letter in detail. "The letter speaks for itself," he said.
Last week, the Arizona Ecumenical Council and American Jewish Committee issued a joint letter saying the patrols "evoked a 'police state' atmosphere" and led to "detainment on the basis of a racial profile and dehumanization of innocent people."
They were joined Friday by the Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, which echoed calls for a Justice Department investigation.
Arpaio said Gordon is playing political games, and said the letters don't bother him.
"I don't think any of them carry any weight cause I have nothing to hide," he said. "(Gordon) is degrading my office and my deputies by insinuating that they're violating all these civil laws. We don't profile."