what happened to joe arpaio?
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What Happened to Joe Arpaio?
June, 2008, Page 26
Joe made it very clear then how he wanted to handle the immigration issue. Let me quote him – a quote I bet has been reprinted in almost every newspaper in this state. In 2005, he told The Arizona Republic’s Michael Kiefer, “I want the authority to lock up smugglers, but I am not going to lock up illegals hanging around street corners. I’m not going to waste my resources going after a guy in a truck when he picks up five illegals to go trim palm trees.”
Here it is 2008, and he’s devoting considerable resources to go after the tree trimmers. And the maids at our tony resorts. And the housekeepers. And the guys who mow the lawns of Phoenix. Those resources – my tax money and yours – are being squandered on “sweeps” of neighborhoods populated mainly by American citizens of Hispanic descent. Sheriff Joe says he’s there to catch criminals, but anyone who looks at the results of his sweeps knows he’s whist-lin’ in the wind.
On one night in April in the Town of Guadalupe, he made 22 arrests, but only five of those arrested ended up being illegals and seven had outstanding arrest warrants for other crimes. Combined with a sweep the sheriff’s office conducted in Phoenix, the two events netted 73 illegal immigrants out of 150 arrests, according to The Arizona Republic.
It’s not that there aren’t enough real criminals in Maricopa County. In April, this county had around 76,000 active arrest warrants. Many weren’t for very serious crimes, but MCSO officials say at least 30,000 were for suspected rapists, murderers, pedophiles and assaulters. Instead of going after them, Sheriff Joe is arresting people for “improper use of horn.”
Somewhere along the line, Sheriff Joe declared war on everyone with brown skin, and this outrageous and un-American behavior is coloring everyone’s view of Arizona. But how in the world did he get to this point?
Here’s a little history lesson that will help put this all into perspective. You may remember that the hothead Patrick Haab was never prosecuted for holding those Mexicans at gunpoint. That’s because the newly elected county attorney, Andrew Thomas, who had run for election on an anti-immigration platform, said he wouldn’t charge Haab with any crime because of a state law that allows a citizen’s arrest when a felony is committed. (Technically, entering this country illegally is a misdemeanor unless you’ve already been deported and come back.)
But were people outraged by Thomas’s hard-line stance? No, siree. Thomas made national headlines and was invited to appear on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes to brag about what he’d done. With the cheering squad of groups like the Minutemen and right-wing radio hosts, being a hard-ass on immigration was the new red meat of America.
Can it be possible, as many pundits believe, that Sheriff Joe watched that Fox News show and was jealous that the new county attorney was getting such praise when his own reasoned stance was being left behind in the dirt? Could he have made a 180-degree turn in his thinking because there were new opportunities for publicity if he became an uncompromising enforcer of illegal immigrants? Some believe it’s as simple as that, and the proof may be in the media pudding: The sheriff who once made fun of the uselessness of arresting gardeners now is making national news for arresting gardeners.
Most of the people he’s arresting in these sweeps aren’t illegal or “dangerous criminals” or even people with outstanding warrants. They’re American citizens who happen to have brown skin. You could call their offenses “driving while brown.”
You could also call these people “patsies,” because here’s another history lesson: Eight months ago, Arpaio and his ally, Thomas, had executives of Phoenix New Times arrested and demanded private information on the publication’s readership as retaliation for negative publicity. Both Republicans faced public ridicule for flouting the First Amendment – not exactly the ideal platform for an upcoming election season.
They needed a distraction, a local political expert says – one so big and controversial that voters would forget all about them trampling on their privacy and the press. The proof is in the headlines.
“For them, they better change the subject right away,” ASU’s David Berman told PHOENIX magazine at the time. “They’ll probably become even more intent on finding illegal immigrants and wrapping up their reputations in that realm.”
I am not the first and certainly won’t be the last columnist in this state to decry the blatant racism of Sheriff Joe’s sweeps and the ridiculous waste of time, personnel and money. And I have to say, I cheered the first time I saw Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state senator and gubernatorial candidate who often faces Arpaio at the illegal immigrant sweeps, scream into a bullhorn: “Sheriff Joe, you’re afraid to go after real criminals so you go after housewives and gardeners – you coward!”
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