Bill Montgomery and the Latino Community: Time for a Divorce
Montgomery (second from left) should be persona non grata for anyone interested in immigration reform...
Imagine my surprise, when checking the website of the venerable Valley organization Chicanos por la Causa, to see a photo of a beaming Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery on a page advertising the group's 44th anniversary dinner, coming up on April 4.
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In my opinion, Montgomery should be radioactive in the Latino community, and indeed, to all those interested in comprehensive immigration reform.
Why? Because Montgomery is joined at the hip with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and he continues to pursue discriminatory charging practices when it comes to undocumented individuals, holding them nonbondable as a result, thereby coercing a guilty plea and guaranteeing their deportations.
In fact, no less than 44 MCAO prosecutors attended a presentation given on January 6, 2012 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorney Dominique Honea on the "immigration consequences" of certain state charges.
The ICE PowerPoint for that presentation, given in the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors' Conference Room, offered a blueprint for the deportation of the undocumented by charging them in a certain manner. This, so as to rule out any defense in their immigration cases, after they plead guilty or are convicted.
Since I wrote about Montgomery's inhumane and unjust policy in February, the county attorney has been protested and called out on his behavior by activist groups and prestigious lawyers, such as those in the Los Abogados Hispanic Bar Association.
A delegation of Latino lawyers and community leaders, including CPLC President Edmundo Hidalgo, met with Montgomery earlier this month to discuss the issue with him, noting the fact that privileged college students at Arizona State University are consistently charged with misdemeanors, if at all, for using someone else's ID or a fake driver's license to obtain booze.
By all accounts, Montgomery remains intransigent, while at the same time signing on to the so called SANE immigration proposal, offered by local groups and concerned citizens.
So what gives with the pic of Monty on the site of an organization that helps some of the very people he's persecuting?
According to CPLC spokeswoman María Jesús Cervantes, the photo is of an award presented to Montgomery by CPLC in March 2012, making him one of four persons and institutions honored for being "Champions for Children."
"An advisory board was the one that selected all four [recipients] at that time," Cervantes explained. "Obviously, things have changed since then."
Interestingly, just a couple of months before receiving this award, Montgomery's prosecutors were getting lessons on how to break up families and separate parents from their children indefinitely.
From jump, Montgomery has been pursuing the same policies as his hateful predecessor, disbarred ex-County Attorney Andy Thomas. He simply has not been making much noise about it.
"We were not aware of the level and the details of the way that issue was being handled," said Cervantes.
She pointed out that Hidalgo was present at the meeting with Montgomery that I mentioned above, and that "dialogue" continues with Montgomery on the subject.
I'll cut CPLC some slack, as long as they pull down that infuriating photo. Montgomery had a lot of folks snookered in 2012, mainly because he wasn't Andy Thomas, and was not trumpeting his repression of the undocumented via press releases, press conferences, and websites.
In fact, one of Montgomery's selling points about himself to Latinos, one he often repeats, is that you don't see him doing joint press conferences with Arpaio, as Thomas did ad nauseam.
But there are no longer any excuses for playing paddy-cake with a guy who continues to treat unauthorized workers as if they were murderers or rapists, while looking the other way when it comes to their employers.
Carlos Garcia, an organizer with the Phoenix-based human rights organization Puente, is adamant that there should be no collaboration with Montgomery.
"To me, the line has been drawn," he told me when I called for comment. "Montgomery's definitely on the side of Arpaio, on the side of [former state Senate President Russell] Pearce, on the side of [Governor Jan] Brewer. For anyone to work with him is the same as working with any of those people.
"The pain that he causes our community is evident and it's out. People know about it, people can't hide from it. The information's there. If they want proof they could talk to any of the community members that have been affected by these policies. Tell them what being friends with Montgomery is like."
Puente has already held two marches to Montgomery's office, and the group is by no means finished.
"We're planning to make that line even more public, in asking people to denounce Montgomery's charging of those arrested in Arpaio's raids," Garcia said.
The CPLC does a lot of good work in the community. Currently, it's sponsoring a program called "Don't Leave Them Behind," which helps worthy applicants for President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals pay the $465 fee required for consideration.
Cervantes says that so far, CPLC has helped almost 90 kids apply. According to its website, its goal is to assist 215 DREAMers in applying for DACA.
The cruel irony is that for many of those young men and women, who are 18 and above, the very felony conviction Montgomery's office seeks to charge them with for working with false information could stand in the way of them ever receiving deferred action.
"You can't talk about comprehensive immigration reform and what Montgomery's doing in the same sentence," Garcia concluded, "because they are opposite."
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