This afternoon the United States Attorney’s Office announced via a press release (PDF) that it was closing the criminal investigation against Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, known for using racial profiling against Latinos in conjunction with federal immigration enforcement programs like 287(g), was under investigation for quite some time by the Department of Justice which was seeking to monitor his department. The push to monitor his office was related to allegations of unfairly targeting Latinos in traffic stops in order to enforce low priority immigration offenses while allowing the investigations of sexual assaults in the county to grow cold.
As I argued when the investigation was announced last spring, there is no one monitoring the Department of Justice when it comes to prosecuting the unjustified deaths of people at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol. The announcement came at a time when the Obama administration was struggling to regain an ounce of credibility within the Latino community and the immigration advocacy community in the face of rising deportation numbers.
With the Supreme Court case against SB1070 in Arizona done and generally forgotten and with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals dominating the work of most pro-migrant non-profit organizations, the decision coming on the eve of the Democratic National Convention can be taken as additional proof that the current administration is playing a shell game when it comes to immigration policy. Over and over we are told that things are changing, memos and press statements are released but enforcement programs that criminalize whole communities are still the priority and the hallmark of Obama’s immigration policy.
Tomorrow, the No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice national delegation of undocumented people and allies that left Phoenix, Arizona on the anniversary of the state’s implementation of SB1070 is scheduled to arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina, the site of this year’s DNC. The riders, undocumented people from all over the country and their allies, including mothers, fathers, day laborers, people in deportation proceedings, students, and many others have crossed 10 states and stopped in 15+ cities. They will be entering a place similar to Maricopa County, Arizona, a place that has a 287(g) program in place, allowing local law enforcement to act as immigration agents. Hopefully they and others will challenge the notion that the Democrats are doing better than their GOP opponents when it comes to immigration policy. All the Dems do is talk a better game. The actions the the current administration scream louder than any of their words.
As I wrote earlier today, a group of undocumented Arizona residents publically declared their undocumented status outside of the trial of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. While Arpaio testifies inside the U.S. courthouse, four undocumented individuals indentified as Miguel Guerra, 37; Natally Cruz, 24; Leticia Ramirez, 27; and Isela Meraz are in the street at the Federal Courthouse (401 W. Washington Street) with a banner that says “No Papers, No Fear: Sin Papeles y Sin Miedo.”
The group released the following statement:
“As undocumented people living in Arizona, we know firsthand what it is like to live under Arpaio’s terror and the constant threat of deportation. Many of us started participating in the movement for justice the day that Jan Brewer signed SB1070 into law. We knew at that moment that things were so terrible, we had to do something to protect our families and our communities. We have learned our rights and our experience has shown us that the best way to fight back is to come out of the shadows and organize.
We have marched and we have protested. Today we are taking civil disobedience to ensure that our voices are heard. We are no longer afraid. Today, we confront publicly what we risk every day, being arrested by the police, and separated from our families, only because we are undocumented. We’re confronting fear itself. We are undocumented and unafraid. We hope to inspire others in our own community to lose their fear, to come out of the shadows, and to organize.”
I asked a representative about any demands that those risking arrest have and was told that they want Arpaio arrested, not the people and that the Feds should stop deporting Arpaio’s victims (who would seem to be victims of the Feds as well no?).
While Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio takes the stand today, responding to charges of racial profiling, local undocumented residents are planning a very visible presence. In a symbolic action outside the Sandra Day O’Connor United States Courthouse in Phoenix, undocumented Arizonans will be speaking about their experiences living under Sheriff Arpaio’s reign and organizing in Arizona. They will call for other undocumented immigrants regardless of their age to come out of the shadows.
The case, Melendres v. Arpaio, is a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of Latino residents who are at risk of being racially profiled on traffic stops by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). The trial began on last week and will continue through early August. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit have put forward extensive evidence showing that Arpaio has conducted operations based on individuals’ race or ethnicity rather than evidence of criminal activity, systematically violating the rights of Latino residents of Maricopa County in the name of immigration enforcement. Police officers under Arpaio have been accused of taking Arpaio’s hate driven focus in attacking immigrant communities while ignoring cases involving violence against women in the community, including sexual violence.
Democrats and Obama supporters are quick to point out that the accusation is coming from a conservative strategist, Alfonso Aguilar, in an effort to gain votes for Republicans in key swing states like Nevada, especially since assumed GOP presidential candidate Romney is trailing in polls among Latino voters.
But is the accusation so off base? Obama’s detention and deportation policies have been built on the legacies of presidents before him. Secure Communities has been expanded and made mandatory under Obama’swatch and responsible in large part to record deportation numbers topping over a million. Comprehensive immigration reform, a promise made to Latino voters during Obama’s 2008 campaign, has failed to make an appearance. Weak willed face saving actions like pushing the DREAM Act and announcing prosecutorial discretion haven’t lived up to expectations nor the demands of immigration advocates and the Latino electorate.
Maricopa Country Cheriff Joe Arpaio’s power has been bolstered by federal immigration policies that lack real oversight on the state level. The soon to be faded out 287(g), allowed Arpaio to turn his police force into defacto immigration enforcement agents. Secure Communities bolsters this. So it’s not a matter of if Obama is worse than Sheriff Joe, it’s a matter of what polices allowed Sheriff Joe to become who he is. The role of state laws like SB1070 cannot be ignored, which is why the Feds are trying to shut parts of that law down, not on the basis of how they violate the rights of immigrants, especially immigrant Latinos (and non-immigrant Latinos as well) but on the basis of how those laws step on federal immigration enforcement toes.
Obama is in a bad position. He has an immigration record that can be scrutinized while Romney is all talk. And while Romney’s talk sure ain’t pretty, it’s not surprising. It follows the same hard-line anti-immigrant, enforcement first agenda that was set back during McCain’s presidential run. If Romney really wants to win the Latino vote in Nevada or any other state he’s gonna need to do better and chances are he won’t and no brown face, not Marco Rubio’s or Alfonso Aguilar’s, is going to help just by pointing out what Latinos already know. Yes, the Obama administration has failed massively and miserably when it comes to immigration reform. What is the GOP offering that is any better?
Let’s see some real policy proposals and less party pointing.
The US Department of Justice is attempting to position itself as tough on racial profiling and violations.
While its arguments in front of the Supreme Court last week against parts of Arizona’s SB1070 were more about asserting the DOJ’s power to enforce immigration laws than insuring the rights of others, especially Latinos, race and ethnicity was an unspoken subtext.
Most recently the U.S. Justice Department kept the pressure on Arizona by targeting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Following a breakdown in negotiations pushing for his police department to be monitored because of racial profiling allegations, yesterday the department announced its intent to sue. The DOJ is seeking to federally monitor Arpaio’s practices including targeting Latinos (or those perceived as Latinos) for unjustified traffic stops and arrests and prioritizing low level immigration offenses over investigating a backlog of sexual assault cases.
While federal oversight of Arpaio’s office is long overdue (just do a search with Arpaio’s name in our own search box to see for yourself), the question that remains unanswered is how to we get the Federal Justice Department to monitor themselves?
So far the Federal Justice Department has refused to investigate the death of Anastasio Hernández-Rojas or any other death that has occurred on the U.S. Mexican border at the hands of Border Patrol. Some organizations, politicians like Senator Robert Menendez, Reps. Raul Grijalva, Xavier Becerra, Jared Polis and Lucille Roybal-Allard, and individuals are putting pressure on Attorney General Eric holder to open an investigation of all killings committed by the Border Patrol since 2010. Yesterday the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security also demanding an investigation into border patrol related deaths.
If the Department of Justice is interested in doing more than just flexing it’s muscle to show states Federal supremacy, than it needs to take a look at how the U.S. Border Patrol treats both U.S. and Mexican citizens like Anastasio. Otherwise it’s hard to believe that Eric Holder is interested in anything resembling justice.
Con la Vista al Voto : From now until election day 2010, VivirLatino is going to have at least one post a day looking at the midterm elections and issues around the election including policy and the much hyped Latino vote.
As if things in Arizona, especially in Maricopa County, weren’t hard enough for Latinos, Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced on Friday:
“STOP ILLEGALS FROM STEALING THE ELECTION! Our grassroots army of VOTER FRAUD PREVENTION VOLUNTEERS will stand vigilant across the nation. We will be the first and strongest line of defense to ensure that only legal citizens vote on November 2nd.”
Almost immediately after Arpaio’s shout out, America’s Voice launched a petition targeting Attorney General Holder, demanding that he send election monitors to Arizona.
On Friday afternoon, the Justice Department announced that its Civil Rights Division plans to deploy more than 400 federal observers and department personnel to 30 jurisdictions in 18 states for the Nov. 2, 2010, general election. One of those jurisdictions is Maricopa County in Arizona.
The other areas being monitored are:
o Autauga County, Ala.;
o Bethel, Alaska;
o Apache and Navajo Counties, Ariz.;
o Riverside County, Calif.;
o Randolph County, Ga.;
o Kane County, Ill.;
o Salem County (Penns Grove), N.J.;
o Cibola and Sandoval Counties, N.M.;
o Cuyahoga County, Ohio;
o Shannon County; S.D.; and
o Dallas, Fort Bend, Galveston and Williamson Counties, Texas.
o Maricopa County, Ariz.;
o Alameda County, Calif.;
o Seminole County, Fla.;
o Honolulu, Hawaii;
o Neshoba County, Miss.;
o Colfax County, Neb.;
o Passaic County, N.J.;
o Orange County, N.Y.;
o Lorain County, Ohio;
o Philadelphia, Pa.;
o Bennett and Todd Counties, S.D.;
o Shelby County, Tenn.; and
o Harris County, Texas.
Maricopa Country Sheriff Joe Arpaio (yup he’s still around) was trying to not fix the inhumane conditions inside the jails within his jurisdiction as ordered by a lower court’s ruling. The court ruled that jails in Maricopa County do not meet constitutional minimums when it comes to food quality and housing conditions for inmates on psychotropic drugs. Yesterday, The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s appeal of the 2008 U.S. District Court Judge Neil V. Wake’s decision.
Now Arpaio must end severe overcrowding and ensure all detainees receive necessary medical and mental health care, be given uninterrupted access to all medications prescribed by correctional medical staff, be given access to exercise and to sinks, toilets, toilet paper and soap and be served food that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines. Basically, the judge ordered that yes Sheriff Joe, the incarcerated are humans and need to be treated as such.
The ACLU proved at the 2008 trial that the sheriff routinely abused pre-trial detainees at Maricopa County Jail by feeding them moldy bread, rotten fruit and other contaminated food, housing them in cells so hot as to endanger their health, denying them care for serious medical and mental health needs and keeping them packed as tightly as sardines in holding cells for days at a time during intake.
America’s Voice has done a great job of researching and compiling his numerous civil rights violations and how ineffective they are in the context of “serve and protect”.
* Violent Crime Rates Rise Under Arpaio, Fall in Rest of Arizona
* Under Arpaio, 911 Response Time Increased, Arrest Rates Decreased
* Arpaio Admits He Arrests ”Very Few” Non-Hispanics
* Over 40,000 Un-served Felony Warrants
* Conservative Think Tank Report: Arpaio’s Policies are Ineffective, Harmful, and a Waste of Millions of Taxpayer Dollars
* Mesa Police Chief: Arpaio’s Approach Hurts Community Safety
OPERATING ABOVE THE LAW
* Arpaio Under Investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for Civil Rights Abuses
* Arpaio Under FBI Investigation for Using his Power to Intimidate Political Opponents
* Judge Says Conditions in Arpaio’s Jails “Violate the Constitution”
* 2,700 Lawsuits Filed Against Arpaio
* Federal Officials Take Away Arpaio’s Deputies’ Authority to Make Immigration Arrests, Arpaio Vows to Defy the Restriction
* Arpaio Threatens Attorneys with Criminal Charges for Criticizing Him
* Department of Labor Investigates Arpaio, Finds He Owes Employees $2M in Unpaid Overtime
* Arpaio Suspected of Misspending $50M in Taxpayer Funds, Refuses to Turn Over Records
* Advocates Awarded $475,000 for Civil Rights Violations by Arpaio Deputies
* Arpaio Stages Phony Murder Plot Against Himself, Accused Released for Wrongful Imprisnment, County Pays Over $1 Million to Settle
INSPIRING TERROR IN LATINO COMMUNITIES
* Arpaio Marches Immigrants in Shackles to Tent City Surrounded by Electric Fence
* Arpaio Separates Mother from Kids for Unpaid Traffic Ticket
* Arpaio Conducts “Crime Suppression” Sweeps in Latino Communities
* Arpaio Forces Mother to Give Birth while Handcuffed to Bed
* Arpaio’s Deputies Deploy Heavy Duty Machine Guns
The former manager said that he had been fired for refusing to hired undocumented worked. Not surprisingly, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office, who have moved ahead with the President’s immigration reform plan a.k.a detain and deport, celebrated this raid as a victory.
I.C.E was disappointed though that they could only detain 9 people as opposed to the 23 they had expected.
How much you want to bet that the other “suspected undocumented” people were Latino?