Bill Montgomery's Victims Rot in Jail, While Arizona Republic Praises His Hypocrisy on Immigration Reform
Relatives of those victimized by Montgomery: from left, Julia Ojeda, Paulina Lopez, Miriam Lopez, and Arletta Juarez
Now, a news flash from inside the stultifying atmosphere of the Arizona Republic's editorial bubble:
Hypocrisy is a good thing.
Particularly as practiced by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
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See, on the verge of some sort of immigration reform bill being introduced in Congress, the Arizona Republic recently published an unsigned opinion piece praising this state (and, by extension, itself) for "leading the way" on immigration reform.
"Leading the way"? Really? The state that brought you ethnic-cleansing law Senate Bill 1070, convicted kid-killer and minutewoman Shawna Forde, neo-Nazi baby-killer J.T. Ready, and Ready's ex-bud, recalled ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce?
Yep, Arizona sure did lead the way. The Grand Canyon State was for self-deportation long before that loser Mitt Romney jumped on the sinking ship.
Why, I can see the special license plates now: "Arizona, First in Hate," emblazoned upon an illustration of a fiery cross.
But, the Rep, more interested in civic boosterism than reality, wants to accentuate the positive. So it brags that our two U.S. senators are part of the "Gang of Eight," who soon will be pimping an immigration reform package.
John McCain's "dang fence," among other things that don't quite fit this PR narrative, are conveniently forgotten.
Like the time McCain blamed Arizona wildfires on migrants crossing the desert.
Hey, why remind folks of Sand Land's nasty recent past, which is still a nasty present for almost all of the undocumented here?
The Republic also offers Montgomery as an example of conservative Republicans seeing the light.
Our local fish wrap cites Monty's support for the so-called SANE initiative, a local version of comprehensive immigration reform, and holds him up as an example of how things are changing.
"Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery shows how a conservative can be a positive voice for reform without compromising dedication to the rule of law," the editorial states. "Consider the contrast with his predecessor, Andrew Thomas, who used the immigration issue to win political advantage by scaring people."
Thing is, as I've demonstrated many times already, Montgomery is pursuing the same nefarious policy as Thomas of overcharging undocumented workers with class four felonies, so as to hold them nonbondable and coerce guilty pleas, which will then make them deportable.
Montgomery does this while completely ignoring possible wrongdoing by employers of the undocumented.
Just like with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, he focuses on the low-hanging fruit, the workers, whose only "crime" is busting their fannies to feed their families.
And for this, the Rep wants to reward Montgomery?
I'd like to drag the entire dunderheaded editorial board of the Republic by their hoary ears to a hearing like the one I attended Monday, an obscenity on the judicial system, where nearly two dozen men and women in stripes and shackles filled the jury box in Superior Court Judge Peter Reinstein's court. All are former workers at Tempe's Sportex Apparel, arrested in the MCSO raid of that business on February 8.
The prosecutor offered the defendants the same deal offered to all of Montgomery's victims these days: Plead guilty to a felony and receive up to 90 days, or time served.
Several of the dozen or so attorneys present seemed ready to persuade their clients to do just that, essentially dooming them to a one-way ticket to deportation once they are turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The non-shysters in the room, who included Delia Salvatierra, Dori Zavala, Ray Ybarra, and Johnny Sinodis, are going to fight for their clients in hopes of preventing conviction, thus allowing them to remain.
Attorney Ray Ybarra represents Jesus Renteria, who worked at Sportex for the past eight years. Ybarra won an undocumented worker his freedom last week, against all the odds.
I asked what he thought of the Republic's characterization of our county attorney.
"You are not moderate by what group you join," said Ybarra. "You're a moderate by what policies you enact. Montgomery's policies are far from moderate, they're worse than Andrew Thomas'. We were getting better pleas under a county attorney who's been disbarred. That's ridiculous."
Ybarra pointed out that his client is just the kind of person who would benefit from pending immigration reform. He also observed the sinister nature of the county attorney yoking all of the Sportex cases into one, treating the defendants like cattle.
"It dehumanizes my client," said Ybarra. "To the point that he doesn't think he has rights."
After the hearing, around 30 supporters of the accused, led by members of the Phoenix-based human rights group Puente, marched from the central courthouse to Montgomery's office, hoping to get Montgomery to meet with relatives of those currently in county jail, held nonbondable, for working without papers.
As we waited in the lobby of the county building for some response from Montgomery's office, I spoke with one of the relatives, Miriam Lopez. Her mom, Maria Gutierrez, is 63 and had worked at Sportex for nine years.
Like most immigrants, Gutierrez came to this country for a better life. Her whole family is here, including Miriam's sister Paulina Lopez and Gutierrez's grandchildren, who wonder every night where their abuela is.
Miriam says she tells the children that Grandma is just working in a different place right now, an excuse that must be wearing thin, considering that Grandma has been in jail for almost 70 days.
I asked what she would tell Montgomery if she could talk with him.
"Please put yourself in our shoes," she explained through an interpreter. "Think of how we're suffering. We don't want our mother to be deported to Mexico. Her whole family is here. She has nobody else, and because of the violence in Mexico, we're scared for her to go there."
Another woman, Areletta Juarez, said her mother and sister-in-law both were caught in the Sportex raid. Her mom Martha Gutierrez is 54. Her sister-in-law Leticia Gutierrez is 34. Both worked for Sportex for eight years.
"It was hard to see them chained like that," she said. "Work is not a crime for them. They didn't come here to steal. They only came to the United States to work."
Julia Ojeda's husband, Miguel Venegas, had worked at Sportex for 15 years. They have three children -- ages 16, 13, and 11 -- all of whom miss their father.
"They're sad every day," she told me. "It's been hard at school. Their grades have dropped because they're always thinking about their dad and how it will all turn out."
Montgomery wasn't in, of course, so his flack Jerry Cobb came down to talk with the demonstrators.
Cobb told them point blank Montgomery would not meet with the family members, supposedly because the cases were "pending," but he left the door open to a meeting with Puente, and gave his card to a representative of the group.
Montgomery remains intransigent, stubbornly sticking to the apartheid policy developed by disbarred, disgraced ex-county attorney Andrew Thomas, a virulent nativist.
He's been challenged by the Hispanic Bar Association Los Abogados on the policy. And Latino leaders have met with Montgomery to ask him to reconsider his policy.
He refuses to do so.
And yet, the so-called "Real Arizona Coalition," the proponents of that SANE initiative which Montgomery has signed onto, are still happy to have this two-faced opportunist at their events.
Until Montgomery talks his walk, the pro-immigrant community needs to treat him like he has three eyes and glows in the dark.
The thought of having him hold forth on immigration reform at some RAC-organized immigration forum is sickening. Like having a Somali warlord lecture us on human rights.
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