Phoenix – A group of Arizona residents who promoted the recall of Republican Sen. Russell Pearce, the chief architect of the state's harsh anti-immigration law, now aims to thwart the reelection of controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"Just like Pearce, Sheriff Arpaio takes an extremist position against immigrants, against immigration, and we want that to end," Randy Parraz, cofounder of Citizens for a Better Arizona, told Efe.
The 79-year-old sheriff is the only law enforcement official in the state to mount workplace raids in search of the undocumented.
Arpaio, who cultivates a reputation as "the toughest sheriff in the West," is currently being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department on charges of racial profiling against Hispanics.
The sheriff will seek reelection in 2012, which is why Citizens for a Better Arizona plans to inform voters about his department's actions against the community.
"We're going to take action, we're going to set our sights on him," Parraz said, adding that a formal announcement of their campaign will be made next Monday in front of the state capitol in Phoenix.
Arpaio has been sheriff of Maricopa County - which includes Phoenix - since 1993, though his popularity among voters waned as time passed.
While in 2004 he won 56.7 percent of the vote, in 2008 he won 55.2 percent.
In 2007 another civic group failed to gather 200,000 voter signatures to force a special election to recall Arpaio.
Parraz said that these new efforts to thwart Arpaio's reelection will focus on his record and, just as they did with Pearce, will not support any alternative candidate.
On Nov. 8, voters in state senate District 18 in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa made history by recalling Pearce, the main promoter of SB 1070, the first law in the country that seeks to criminalize the presence of the undocumented.
Since its enactment last year, SB 1070 has served as a model for other states to pass even tougher measures against illegal immigration.
Citizens for a Better Arizona was the group that collected the signatures needed to hold a special election to recall Pearce.
"We want the sheriff to understand that we as voters have the right to question his actions and that he must give answers," Parraz said. "Once again the Hispanic vote will be very important, especially in times like these. I believe this is a historic moment in Arizona that began with the recall of Pearce and can continue with Arpaio."
For his part, Arpaio told Efe he isn't worried about the campaign against him.
"I'm going to keep on doing my job, nothing has changed with Pearce leaving office, my work is to apply the laws and that's what I'll do," he said.