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ICE Protesters Arrested In Front Of Downtown Phoenix Jail

Four activists who chained themselves to each other outside one of the entrances to a county jail in downtown Phoenix have been arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

They were among 100 protesters who gathered in front of the 4th Avenue Jail Wednesday night. Carlos Garcia, with the activist group Puente, said they oppose Sheriff Paul Penzone’s cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Crimes are committed by people by all walks of life and to suggest that someone, for the fact that they don’t have papers, have committed a crime because of that is racist in nature," he said. 

The sheriff doubled down recently on his cooperation with ICE, saying it's "both lawful and necessary in our effort to promote public safety while facilitating the mission and authority of other policing agencies."

Wednesday's protest was part of a national movement known as Abolish ICE, which aims to end the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. ICE was created soon after 9/11.

The protest was peaceful with a few tense moments as protesters and counter protesters traded barbs. One man was reprimanded by police for shoving a protester who had gotten close to him with a megaphone.

Armed counter-protesters flanked the outskirts of the protest, including AZ Patriot member Jeff Morrow.

“When we have illegals who come here illegally, breaking the law, and then start demanding that we abolish our security system that’s just crazy," he said. 

Penzone says ICE has flagged more than 1,600 jail detainees this year, detainees who have been arrested for everything from murder to sexual abuse to driving under the influence. The sheriff no longer participates in so-called detainers, or requests by ICE to keep holding someone while they investigate their legal status. But ICE officers are allowed in the jail and can ask anyone about their status.

In a written statement, Penzone said he remains committed to working with ICE and other law enforcement agencies.

"The most effective tactic to avoid these challenges is to be a law-abiding member of our community," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer at KJZZ from 2015 to 2019.