Activists and members of the Arizona Hispanic community on Tuesday came to the offices of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to call for his resignation after a federal judge determined he discriminated against Hispanics.

"The court said that he is guilty of racism, that he had been harassing the Hispanic community illegally, and he, who is a policeman, should recognize that illegal conduct must be punished," Lilia Alvarez, the director of the Respect/Respeto Arizona organization, told Efe.

The judge's ruling came at the best time, Alvarez said, given that those opposing Arpaio's practices are in the final phase of collecting signatures for a recall election.

Respect Arizona on May 30 must turn in a total of 335,000 signatures of registered voters in Maricopa County to force a special election.

The group has had to face many obstacles to be able to collect the necessary signatures, among them an intense campaign by those supporting the octogenarian sheriff, Alvarez said.

"We've seen advertisements all over the city where Arpaio is asking (people) not to sign the petition, people who show up where we're collecting signatures to intimidate people," she said.

Arpaio, who was reelected for the sixth consecutive time last November, conducts workplace raids on an ongoing basis to apprehend undocumented workers.

Last Friday, a federal judge ruled that Arpaio discriminated in his operations against Hispanic residents and violated their constitutional rights.

The judge ordered the MCSO to stop using race or ancestry as a motive for questioning and detaining motorists.

Meanwhile, the sheriff's lawyers said they will appeal the decision within the next 30 days. EFE