Phoenix border enforcement
Allies of Phoenix mayor fight back against border enforcement
PHOENIX (AP) - Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon was re-elected to a second-term last year by an overwhelming margin, but that has not stopped advocates for tougher immigration enforcement from seeking to force him out of office.
Anna Gaines said her group, American Citizens United, launched the recall effort because illegal immigrants are committing crimes in Phoenix and Gordon is not doing enough to fix the problem.
“We have to remove him before he causes any more damage to this city,” said Gaines, a native of Mexico who came to the United States legally and became an American citizen.
The group needs to collect petition signatures from nearly 24,000 of Phoenix's 521,000 registered voters by Aug. 28. If enough valid signatures are gathered, Gordon could either resign or let voters decide whether to oust him.
Gordon's supporters have been running a TV commercial extolling his public safety record in what appears to be an attempt to head off the recall effort.
Gordon, who has faced criticism for the police department's immigration policies, did not produce the advertisement, though he is more than happy to have the support of the political committee that did.
“I am just grateful that there are good messages going out, especially at a time when you have some extremists trying to stop the city progress, trying to stop myself from continuing to go forward as a mayor,” said Gordon, who last year won a second term with 77 percent of the vote to lead the fifth-largest U.S. city.
It is unclear when a recall election could be held. Officials said that would depend on when recall organizers turn in signatures and how long it would take election workers to verify them. The election could not be scheduled for 90 days after that, making it unlikely to appear on the November ballot.
Gaines declined to say how many signatures her group has gotten so far.
Billy Shields, leader of Support Our Mayor, the group behind the TV ad, said the spot was not intended to beat back the recall effort, though he acknowledged its message would help counter those seeking the mayor's ouster.
Instead, the commercial was meant to inform the public about Gordon's efforts to improve public safety and redevelop downtown Phoenix, he said.
“It's not a campaign ad,” said Shields, whose group has raised about $100,000 and plans to continue running the spot. He said the ad is intended to spotlight the “energy of the leadership of Phil Gordon and taking our city to a new level.”
Gordon, whose tenure has focused heavily on downtown development and public transportation efforts, was faulted last year for a long-standing police department policy that prevented officers from questioning suspects about their immigration status, except for those suspected of committing a serious felony.
After the mayor appointed a panel to recommend changes to the policy, police amended the rules so officers could ask all criminal suspects about their immigration status. Gaines said the change was made because advocates like herself pushed for it.
Gordon has touted the police department's large number of arrests of criminal immigrants and its efforts to disrupt smuggling networks. He also has expressed frustration with the federal government's efforts to confront illegal immigration.
Located more than 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the border, Phoenix is the busiest smuggling hub in the United States, partly because it offers a myriad of transportation routes for sending migrants to other regions.
The mayor went on the offensive this spring by criticizing Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration and crime sweeps in two predominantly Hispanic areas of Phoenix. Gordon has asked for a federal investigation of Arpaio for possible civil rights violations.
James Svara, a professor at Arizona State University's School of Public Affairs who studies local governments, said the TV commercial could remind voters of Gordon's record before they are approached by recall organizers.
“It makes it harder to find those people who may want to sign the petition,” said Svara, who had not seen the ad.
Although the recall effort's signature threshold is not terribly high given the city's size, organizers will have to approach many voters in their attempt to try to sink the popular mayor, he noted.
The recall effort is an all-volunteer campaign with no paid signature-gathers, Gaines said.
On the Net:
American Citizens United: http://www.recallmayorgordon.com
Mayor Phil Gordon: http://www.mayorgordon.com