The other day Joe went out into the desert west of Phoenix in another of his infamous “crime sweeps” hunting illegal aliens. This time he brought big fire power with him, so he could shoot back if attacked.
Which raises an interesting question. Is the Border Patrol armed with 50 caliber machine guns?
Joe Arpaio launches 16th immigration sweep in desert
Jul.16, 2010, under Arizona Republic News
In a stretch of barren desert alongside Interstate 8 near Gila Bend that has become a corridor for human and drug smuggling, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and about 100 men staged a crime-suppression operation Thursday.
Arpaio brought with him a belt-fed .50-caliber machine gun that can shoot accurately up to a mile as a display of the kind of force he would use if anyone hurts a deputy.
“I am trying to send a message to Mexico,” he said. “We will not take anyone hurting our deputies. We will fight back.”
The 7-year-old gun has not yet been used, Arpaio said. “It is more for defense.” Nor have any of his deputies yet been harmed in a border scuffle.
“We have been very lucky,” he said.
The sheriff said criminals smuggling drugs and immigrants across the border are now carrying AK-47s along the swath of desert that is seldom patrolled. The Barry M. Goldwater Range is used for shooting and cannot be patrolled without permission from the United States Air Force. That gives smugglers an easy path for entry, Arpaio said.
Often smugglers cut through Vekol Valley east of Gila Bend, then come north to vehicles waiting on Interstate 8, he said. Those usually head to Phoenix on back roads.
The volunteers and paid deputies arrived in about 20 vehicles to stage the first-ever suppression operation in the desert.
By 8 p.m. Thursday, the deputies had made two arrests at traffic stops, but those were outside their staging area. One was nabbed for a criminal traffic violation, and the other had a warrant for a criminal traffic violation.
Arpaio’s group planned to stay until 2 a.m. today. He said the timing of the suppression was not connected to Thursday’s hearing challenging Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s immigration law that makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It requires officers engaged in a stop, detention or arrest to, when practicable, ask about a person’s legal status when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the U.S. illegally.
The law goes into effect July 29, which is when Arpaio’s 17th crime-suppression operation is scheduled. Arpaio said the operation will go on even if the law is struck down.