Today, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice told me that an announcement may come as soon as Thursday on whether or not Sheriff Joe Arpaio will get to keep 287(g) authority in his jails. (See below for update.) I tend to be a pessimist, so it wouldn't surprise me if the Obama administration shrugs off the human rights concerns of those of us in Maricopa County (and elsewhere), and allows Arpaio to operate under the imprimatur of federal power in his vast, inhumane incarceration complex.
Even if ICE has -- as Arpaio has maintained -- nixed his 287(g) street authority, Arpaio will continue his rampage on Friday unabated, and persist in profiling and detaining U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents based on skin color and ethnicity. If the Department of Homeland Security and the White House do not take action to stop Arpaio and immediately cancel all cooperation with him through the 287(g) program, then we have no choice but to view the administration's acquiescence to the sheriff as cowardice and betrayal.
Can President Obama really be said to deserve his Nobel Peace Prize if he averts his gaze from the human and civil rights abuses being suffered by Latinos in Maricopa County? What does it say about the man and his administration if he and his apparatchiks ignore the cries for justice that come from so many of those who have supported Obama and helped him attain the highest office in the land?
Videographer/activist Dennis Gilman's latest effort "Arpaio's Reign of Terror" contains some previously unseen footage of victims of Arpaio, including the testimony of Americans who've been falsely detained by his deputies. I don't know how anyone with any sense of right and wrong, especially someone allegedly as progressive as the President, can watch this video and be unconcerned. I know some of Obama's people will watch it. Are they so wrapped up in the petty games of D.C. one-upsmanship and sycophancy that they cannot see that they have the power to change this situation?
I fear the answer to this last query is yes. Let's hope I'm wrong.
UPDATE: Thursday, October 15, 2009 11:49 a.m. I spoke with Virginia Kice again just now, and she tells me there will be no announcement today. One is expected tomorrow. Below is a statement from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network on the subject, which seems timely.
October 15, 2009
The Real Story is not Arpaio's Bloviating: It is DHS silence on its New 287(g) Policy. Today is deadline for contract renewal
(Phoenix, Arizona) The country is waiting to see what happens in Phoenix and around the country with the 287(g) program. In the last two weeks, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been on a media blitz responding to his own leak that he will sign a new, limited 287(g) agreement with the Department of Homeland Security. Even Glenn Beck was incredulous when Arpaio openly admitted his willingness to continue racial profiling.
And while national press attention has focused on Joe Arpaio, his overtly racist statements about Mexicans, and his stated intention to enforce immigration law regardless of the outcome of his 287(g) negotiations, the real story is the silence from Janet Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security.
Clearly, the Obama administration faces a dilemma, both with Arpaio and the program as a whole. Arpaio has made explicit his intention to violate the new 287(g) agreement before it was even finalized. In fact, he violates both the old and the new agreement each time he talks about 287(g) with the press. Last week, DHS released a report on detention conditions and announced its intention to limited subcontracting of immigration detention responsibility. The same report noted that the vast majority of immigrants processed through 287(g) programs were never charged with a criminal offense.
On August 25, Over 500 civil rights organizations implored President Obama to end the flawed 287(g) program. On September 28, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a strongly worded letter to the President calling for complete termination of the 287(g) program. Earlier this week, the New York Times published an editorial urging the same.
On July 10, DHS announced that all 66 existing 287(g) agreements would need to be renegotiated within 90 days. Today is DHS's self-imposed deadline, and the status of all of the agreements remains unclear. Several 287(g) local police departments already announced they are backing out of the program. On October 2, Phoenix community leaders filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request to demand clarity from the Obama Administration as to the status of negotiations. They have not received a response, and DHS has refused comment on the program to the press.
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The following is a statement by Chris Newman, Legal Director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network:
"Joe Arpaio, and not the Obama Administration, is currently defining immigration policy in Maricopa County, and it is a national disgrace. In his pursuit of nativist adoration, Joe Arpaio has defied federal law and disregarded bedrock Constitutional protections. But Arpaio's scapegoating of immigrants is old news, and federal courts will eventually restore the rule of law and vindicate the rights of the people in Maricopa County.
"What remains a mystery is why the Obama Administration has not yet repudiated Arpaio nor scrapped the 287(g) program all together. If it decides today to renew the Bush-era contract with Arpaio for any immigration enforcement responsibility, it will cast a dark stain on President Obama's stated intention of reforming US immigration policy in general and the 287(g) program in particular. Worse still, it will be a slap in the face of the millions of Americans in Waiting who should be legalized and not further criminalized by nativist demagogues. We're waiting to see if we get the change President Obama asked us to believe in."