‘Sheriff Joe’ orders AZ deputies to question undocumented immigrants about wildfires

By Kase Wickman
Saturday, June 25, 2011 14:23 EDT
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Deputies in Arizona’s Maricopa County arrested 20 immigrants making their way from Mexico to the U.S. last week, and detained them for questioning about the wildfires plaguing Arizona.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the infamously tough “Sheriff Joe,” released a statement about the arrests, which occurred near the border where the wildfires blazed.

“It’s a long shot I know,” Arpaio said. “But since we already gather information from them about their U.S. entry points and traveling routes and methods, this is simply one more area of intelligence to explore that may help us to determine the origins of these fires.“

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been criticized for the last week because he blamed undocumented immigrants as the cause of the fires.

“There is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,” he said at a press conference last Saturday. “They have set fires because the want to signal others. They have set fires to keep warm and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Az) backed him, up, saying “he is correct.”

U.S. Forest Service officials have directly discredited McCain and Kyl’s claims.

Tom Berglund, the Forest Service official in charge of the Wallow blaze, told ABC News that it has been classified as an “escaped campfire.” Asked if there was substantial evidence linking illegal immigrants and the fire, Berglund said, “Absolutely not, at this level.”

“There’s no evidence that I’m aware, no evidence that’s been public, indicating such a thing,” he said.

Image of Sheriff Joe via Wikimedia Commons.

(h/t: Alternet)

Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
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