Arpaio raids Mesa City Hall; mayor outraged
Mayor outraged by sweep for illegal migrants
by Gary Nelson, Michael Kiefer and JJ Hensley - Oct. 17, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Sheriff Joe Arpaio traded angry words and accusations with Mesa officials Thursday after 60 deputies and posse members armed with search warrants stormed City Hall and the public library in the middle of the night in a hunt for illegal workers.
"I believe the safety of our citizens was gravely compromised" when Maricopa County sheriff's deputies in "battle gear" swept into city buildings about 2 a.m. while cleaning crews were at work, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith told reporters. "I believe we had set the scene where bad things could have happened."
Arpaio defended his tactics, claiming the raid came only after a former city employee called the sheriff's illegal-immigration hotline to report that a cleaning company under contract with the city was hiring illegal immigrants.
Arpaio said the informant had tipped off a Mesa police lieutenant and said the lieutenant brushed off the request, saying it was a problem for the cleaning company.
But a city spokeswoman late Thursday said police Lt. Wade Pew and city staff met with the cleaning company, Management Cleaning Controls, on May 21 after he received the information.
A follow-up e-mail sent June 4 by facilities maintenance director Dennis Ray to cleaning company officials reiterated the city's concerns over "several security issues that have recently been brought to our attention," and included a section of the city's contract requiring that contractors ensure all workers are legal.
Arpaio said the raid was set up after a sheriff's undercover detective infiltrated the cleaning business, claiming to be an undocumented immigrant, and was schooled by a manager in how to obtain false identification that would get him past federal identification verification software.
About 30 deputies and 30 volunteer posse members in bulletproof vests and carrying semi-automatic weapons prepared for the operation in Pioneer Park across from the Mormon Temple shortly after midnight.
The deputies, carrying 25 arrest warrants, headed for the library and City Hall, an eight-story building that houses several municipal departments as well as the mayor's and council members' offices.
Deputies fanned out and arrested three people; 13 others, including a manager at Management Cleaning Controls, were arrested at residences later that morning, Arpaio said. Ten were arrested on suspicion of identity theft and six for potentially being in the country illegally.
The 16 arrested included six people who were not named in the warrants. Arpaio said they are still looking for 15 more company employees.