Friday, April 9, 2010

America’s Most Regrettable Sheriff

Proclaimed by the media as America’s Toughest Sheriff, Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is probably well known to readers of this blog for his theatrics that include distributing pink underwear and his terrorizing of immigrants through neighborhood sweeps, or when he paraded 220 undocumented immigrants in shackles through Phoenix in 2009 toward his notorious outdoor tent prison.

Despite the apparent human rights violations in Sheriff Joe’s efforts to strip prisoners of any shred of dignity, and the outcry over the years of Latino/a advocates challenging his targeting of undocumented immigrants under state law, voters in Maricopa County keep returning this pompous buffoon to office, most recently in 2008, by a substantial margin. Explaining this vote for me is a familiar species of comment posted on CNN’s website in April 2010 reading:

I live here in phoenix and all I have to say is

CLOSE THE BORDER before the crime makes it to your town. It started on the border and is making its way across the country. These people are criminals and cross without any resistance. By the time it gets to your house it will be too late.

First offense: deportation

Second offense: death

I view Sheriff Joe, along with the Minutemen, as poster children of our broken immigration system. Someday we will look back at his antics and sweep them into history’s dustbin, as one of the regrettable individuals of our time who left a legacy of shame for himself, his supporters, and more generally Phoenix and surrounding cities where racism and dirty politics run deep.

Ironically, Sheriff Joe’s brand of justice, a fusion of The Godfather and Wild West frontier justice, may be his undoing. The April 2010 ABA Journal hung out Sheriff Joe’s dirty (pink) laundry for the legal world to see in detailing what happens to those—whether reporters, county supervisors, or even judges—who dare challenge Sheriff Joe or divert resources from his empire.

Sheriff Joe has said “My message to the illegals is this: Stay out of Maricopa County, because I’m the sheriff here.” I’m a U.S. born citizen born to a U.S. citizen mother of Mexican-born immigrant parents. But I’ll stay out of Maricopa County too.

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