what happened to joe arpaio?
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What Happened to Joe Arpaio?
June, 2008, Page 26
Illustration by Pat Kinsella
Once upon a time, Sheriff Joe was a voice of reason when it came to illegal immigration. So why did he take a 180-degree turn?
I FEEL LIKE I’M LIVING IN a history book about backward eras that seem impossible in hindsight – the kind that make us shake our heads in disbelief and ask, “How could people back then tolerate that?”
The name Bull Connor comes to mind – the Alabama sheriff who terrorized blacks and fought integration in the 1960s. I was a young girl then, and the Civil Rights movement was something happening very far away from my safe, secure home in North Dakota.
Now, I pick up the paper or turn on the TV most days and feel like I’m watching Bull Connor on steroids. Only now we call him Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and he’s terrorizing Hispanics – only a few of whom are illegal immigrants. I’m not a young girl anymore, and this civil rights battle is happening very close to my safe, secure home in Arizona.
Every time I watch Sheriff Joe unleash his “posse” on another neighborhood with a high Hispanic population, arresting people with brown skin for the most stupid of offenses – honking their horn, having a tail light out, not signaling when they change lanes – I have to wonder how anyone could not see this as an assault on an entire race of people.
It’s gotten so outrageous that The New York Times tore Sheriff Joe apart in an April editorial. Declaring that Congress has botched immigration policy and given authority to others, such as sheriffs’ departments, to “mishandle” it even more, the paper wrote: “To see how unhinged things have become, it pays to zero in on the squalid doings in Maricopa County, Ariz. It is run by the county sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who has built a national reputation for toughness through years of cruelty to prison inmates and an insatiable appetite for publicity.”
The sheriff sends out press releases before these “sweeps,” the Times noted, drawing protesters, TV crews and “deport-’em-all hard liners.”
“Sheriff Joe, seemingly addicted to the buzz, has been filmed marching down the street shaking hands with adoring Minutemen,” the Times continued. “If this doesn’t look to you like a carefully regulated, federally supervised effort to catch dangerous criminals, that’s because it isn’t. It is a series of stunts…. The sheriff says he is keeping the peace, but it seems as if he is doing just the opposite – a useless, reckless churning of fear and unrest.”
The Times called on Congress to re-examine the powers it has given local sheriffs and investigate how that power has been misused, “starting with a subpoena for Sheriff Joe.”
In one breath, I thought the Times was right on. In the next, I wondered what happened to Sheriff Joe, because I remember when he was a voice of reason on immigration. No, I haven’t lost my mind or confused him with someone else. It was just as recently as 2005 when he decried “vigilantes” who went after suspected illegal immigrants and defended his deputies who arrested a hothead named Patrick Haab for pulling a gun on seven Mexican migrants at a rest stop on Interstate 8.
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