The sheriff of Arizona's most populous county is making room in a vast outdoor jail and determined to round up illegal immigrants to fill it. Police from the U.S.-Mexico border to the Grand Canyon are receiving last-minute training. Protests and marches are planned throughout Phoenix.

Share story

PHOENIX — The sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county is making room in a vast outdoor jail and determined to round up illegal immigrants to fill it. Police from the U.S.-Mexico border to the Grand Canyon are receiving last-minute training. Protests and marches are planned throughout Phoenix.

Arizona’s new immigration law is scheduled to take effect Thursday, creating a potentially volatile mix of police, illegal immigrants and thousands of activists, many planning to show up without identification as a show of solidarity.

At least one group plans to block access to federal offices, daring officers to ask them their immigration status.

“Our message for that day is: ‘Don’t comply, don’t buy,’ ” said activist Liz Hourican, whose group, CodePink, plans to block the driveway for immigration offices in downtown Phoenix.

As both sides prepare, a federal judge is deciding whether to step in and block the law. It requires officers enforcing other laws to check a person’s immigration status if they suspect the person is in the country illegally. Illegal immigrants also are banned from soliciting work in a public place.

Police across the state scrambled Tuesday to train officers, including on how to avoid racial profiling, and plan for a potential influx of detainees.

The hardest-line approach is expected in the Phoenix area, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio plans his 17th crime and immigration sweep. He plans to hold the sweep, regardless of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton.

Arpaio, known for his tough stance against illegal immigration, plans to dispatch about 200 deputies and volunteers, looking for traffic violators, people wanted on criminal warrants and others. He has used that tactic before to arrest dozens of people, many of them illegal immigrants.

“We don’t wait. We just do it,” he said. “If there’s a new law out, we’re going to enforce it.”

He said the space he made in the complex of military surplus tents can handle 100 people, and he will find room for more, if necessary.

Elsewhere, police officials said they didn’t expect any dramatic events. They were busy wrapping up training sessions this week, with some agencies saying untrained officers will not be allowed on the streets.

Many of the state’s 15,000 police officers have been watching a DVD released this month. It notes that a person may be an illegal immigrant if he or she speaks poor English, looks nervous or travels in an overcrowded vehicle. The DVD warns that race and ethnicity are not signs.

Arizona’s law gives police two options to confirm whether a detainee is an illegal immigrant.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment on preparations or the role federal authorities would play in enforcing the law, except to say ICE “focuses first on criminal aliens who pose a threat to our communities.”

Arpaio vowed to arrest all illegal immigrants and make them spend time in his jail. Other police officials said they would try to involve the Border Patrol as often as possible to avoid the time and cost of booking detainees into jail.

Prosecutors are preparing for a potential influx of cases. They are reminding officers they are required to explain circumstances of the original stop and why they suspected the person was an illegal immigrant and to report any comments made by the suspect.