PHOENIX (psburton) — a civil rights advocate is using text messages to alert residents when the local Sheriff conducts one of his infamous immigration sweeps. Lydia Guzman, the director of a nonprofit immigrant advocacy group, is the trunk of a grass roots texting tree designed to alert thousands of people within minutes of sheriff Joe Arpaio deploying his private army of sworn officers and volunteer special deputies called posse members.

The Sheriff calls the sweeps crime suppression actions, but to most civil libertarians, law professors and critics, it’s simply an excuse by a reputed racist with a badge to abuse minorities. Ms. Guzman said her text messages are part of an effort to protect folks from becoming victims of racial profiling by sheriff’s deputies and posse members. “Everyone is responsible for sending it out to their own networks, and that is how it spreads like wildfire,” Guzman said of her text messages.

Sheriff Arpaio insists his deputies do not engage in racial profiling, He said he suspects the real goal of the text messages is to help illegal immigrants avoid arrest. “This little group of people is in favor of open borders, and they don’t like what I am doing. That is the bottom line,” Arpaio said. “But it isn’t interfering with my operation because we still arrest a good number of people, including illegal aliens.” Sheriff Arpaio has conducted 13 sweeps since 2008, arresting 669 people, many of whom were held on immigration violations.

The Federal government recently stripped the sheriff of his authority to enforce federal immigration law and Arpaio held a news conference to put federal authorities on notice he is the law in Maricopa county Arizona. Despite precedent and prior rulings from the United States Supreme court concerning freedom of speech, the sheriff warns his opponents they are walking a line between exercising free speech and breaking the law. He claims the texts are tipping off human-smuggling organizations though he declines to provide any evidence to support his claims.

Guzman said she sends her text messages to a wide range of individuals, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, Cop watch and various immigrant-rights. She concedes some who receive the text messages could use the information to avoid being caught and deported.

Andy Hessick, constitutional law professor at Arizona State University, said sending warnings to people who might be subject to racial profiling would likely be considered free speech while David Hudson Jr., First Amendment scholar at Vanderbilt University, said the messages are protected free speech because they are merely letting people know what Arpaio is doing, similar to publicizing DUI checkpoints and speed traps or flashing your headlights when police are nearby.”That is not unlawful,” he said. “It’s the conveyance of truthful information.”

Arpaio who is rumored to be the central focus of a federal task force is famous for arresting critics and political opponents on trumped up charges, has teamed up with the local county attorney and the two are engaged in a bitter no holds barred political war with judges, valley mayors and supervisors. Though he retains a rock solid 45% approval rating, many political insiders say the Sheriff and county attorney Andrew Thomas have overplayed their hand by arresting sitting Judges and supervisors on charges so bogus they get tossed at initial hearings.

The Supreme Court of Arizona has even had to appoint a special master because the political infighting is interfering with the ability of the judicial system to function.

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