No Room for Arpaio at the Wells Fargo Inn; and a Hispanic Homemaker Bears Witness Against ICE and the MCSO

CHICKENS COMING HOME?

Call it Sal Reza's Long March: the persistent pressure the Phoenix civil rights leader has applied to Wells Fargo to oust Sheriff Joe Arpaio from his 18th- and 19th-floor roosts in the pricey, executive office building in downtown Phoenix.

When Reza began the campaign in late 2008, presenting an "eviction" notice to Wells Fargo honchos and maintaining a Monday-through-Friday midday vigil outside 100 West Washington Street, many of his fellow Latino activists thought he'd gone bonkers.

Even I compared him to Don Quixote at the time.

For more than a year and a half, Reza's Puente group hammered Arpaio with protests involving drums, signs likening Arpaio to Benito Mussolini, demonstrators wearing papier-mâché Arpaio heads, and sometimes mariachis. Once, Wells Fargo even became the destination for a children's march to its doorstep, protesting Arpaio's jailing of their undocumented moms and dads.

But now the idea of forcing Arpaio from his lair, which costs Maricopa County taxpayers $675K a year in rent, is no longer laughable. Indeed, my colleague Ray Stern recently ferreted out news of a letter to the county from Wells Fargo, asking the sheriff to skedaddle before September 2013, when the extension to the original lease is up.

According to Stern, Wells Fargo told county officials that they want the floors for their own purposes. The MCSO's already started hunting for new digs.

After learning that Arpaio & Co. had 'til 2013 to amscray, Reza referred to it as a "partial victory." He ascribed Wells Fargo's willingness to waive penalties and notice requirements as a way of helping Arpaio save face.

"They're trying to do it in an elegant way," said Reza. "But there's no elegant way of getting him out."

Reza predicted things will only get worse for Wells Fargo, publicity-wise, the longer Sheriff Joe remains.

"Wells Fargo knows we're not going to quit," insisted Reza. "And they know that every time he has a news conference, Arpaio and Wells Fargo are tied together."

Though I give Reza his props — after all, he's primarily responsible, along with his allies at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, for putting more than 10,000 people in the street on January 16 for the most recent anti-Arpaio march in Phoenix — there may have been another factor at play in Wells Fargo's decision.

In early December, the MCSO raided the community development group Chicanos por la Causa, supposedly seeking info on loans CPLC had made to Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a persistent critic of the sheriff's, his abuses of power, and his racial-profiling ways.

About 20 sheriff's deputies made off with seven hard drives, including a backup of CPLC's statewide e-mail system, in what amounted to a fishing expedition beyond the already dubious investigation of Wilcox.

The day after the raid, CPLC President and CEO Edmundo Hidalgo blasted the MCSO raid as beyond the scope of the warrant presented. It just so happens that Hidalgo is a former Wells Fargo executive. At Wells Fargo, Hidalgo was a vice president and the national spokesman for the company's Latino Loan Program.

I was unable to reach Hidalgo for a comment, but a CPLC flack, who declined to be quoted, insisted that — to her knowledge — CPLC had not put any pressure on Wells Fargo to kick Arpaio to the curb.

Perhaps CPLC didn't have to. As Wells Fargo openly vies for Latino customers, and as Arpaio has become (in his own words) the "poster boy" for the racial profiling of Hispanics, severing all connections between the bank and the man could be good for business.

Wells Fargo, for its part, has declined to explain its reasons for asking Arpaio to leave. Such an explanation is unnecessary. The action speaks for itself.

WITNESS TO BRUTALITY

With great annoyance I recently watched Immigration and Customs Enforcement honcho John Morton's videotaped remarks to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. There, on January 25, the nation's top immigration cop talked of the fact that he was born in Scotland, that his mother is a legal permanent resident, and that he's staking his legacy at ICE on detention reform.

The source of my skepticism is twofold: Morton's recent defense of ICE's continued partnership with Sheriff Joe in his county jails; and the revelations of recent documents and video released by the MCSO in the case of Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez, a Hispanic housewife whose arm was broken while in MCSO custody.

For those who may not recall my past reports concerning Garcia-Martinez, she was arrested by the Phoenix Police Department on March 6, 2009, after a cop tried to issue her a warning for putting up yard-sale signs.

The 5-foot-something 46-year-old, who's been in the United States illegally for decades, had an expired California ID and a matricula card from the Mexican consulate on her. Because of a small discrepancy between the two IDs, Phoenix PD arrested the mother of three on suspicion of forgery.

Law dogs at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office — not known as pikers when it comes to pursuing the undocumented — declined to prosecute because there was "no reasonable likelihood of conviction."

As Garcia-Martinez was in MCSO custody with an immigration hold on her, there was nothing left to do but transfer her to ICE.

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