If any pro-immigrant activists or lawyers out there labor under the illusion that ICE's denial of street 287(g) authority to Sheriff Joe Arpaio will put a crimp in his office's persecution of the undocumented in Maricopa County, they should've been listening to KTAR 92.3 FM's Jay Lawrence show this Sunday evening.
For about 20 minutes, Arpaio growled his way through an interview by the Phoenix talk show host, who delved into two topics -- how Arpaio would continue to operate his Hispanic-hunting dragnets now that ICE is allowing him to maintain his 287(g) power in the jails alone (according to Arpaio); and the flap over Arpaio's latest misuse of RICO funds.
(Note: I've e-mailed Lawrence about a podcast of the show, as there doesn't seem to be one on KTAR's antediluvian Web site. If I get a link, I'll let you know.)
What's actually transpired between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Arpaio is not completely clear, as ICE only offered a very vague, public statement Friday night, essentially saying ICE wouldn't comment until it had reviewed all of the new 287(g) agreements at the end of a 90 day re-signing period, which should be over by October 15. The Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is a part, had announced on July 10 new 287(g) agreements for their local partners to sign, you see.
Arpaio freely shared his version of how the deal went down.
"They just don't want me, I'm the poster boy," snarled Arpaio. "I say, `they,' that's the Obama administration, the White House, certain members of congress, certain politicians here, [DHS honcho Janet] Napolitano, don't want me enforcing the 287 federal immigration laws on the streets. So they came down here last week. I shocked them by signing both parts of that agreement, on the streets and in the jails. They sent their top guy down the next day -- he took away my street operations and stuck us with the jails."
Under the old 287(g) memorandum, Arpaio could boast over 160 MCSO deputies trained to enforce U.S. immigration law. Some of those worked the jails, while others were used during Arpaio's sweeps of Latino neighborhoods and raids on businesses. Ironically, in both instances, this involved 287(g) federal authority being used in acts of racial profiling and other civil rights abuses that the U.S. Department of Justice is now investigating.
True to form, Arpaio expressed the arrogance of a common criminal during the interview, thumbing his nose at the feds.
"I'm going to tell you something, Jay," he said to Lawrence. "I don't need the feds to do my crime suppression to opt to arrest illegals. I can do it without the federal authority, and I'm going to continue to do it. It makes no difference. It helps us. Because I don't have to do all the paperwork for the feds, number one. And number two, I won't be under their umbrella, their guidance. So I will operate the same way, nothing is going to change."
Sounding for all the world like some cheap '30s movie gangster, Arpaio insisted that, "They can't stop me." He promised to have illegal immigrants driven to the border if ICE doesn't take custody of them. That's an interesting prospect, given the complexity of civil immigration law, which could allow for citizenship claims by those Arpaio will be taking it upon himself to deport.
"Nothing changes," crowed Joe at one point, adding, "because pursuant to our duties in these crime suppression [sweeps] we arrest anybody that violates the law. If we find during the arrests that that there are illegals, we arrest them. Now the only difference [is] we're going to take 'em down to ICE. I hope they accept them, if they don't, I'll bring 'em myself to the border. So nothing really has changed. This is all politics. They want to use me to get rid of this 287 agreement across the country."
Oh, and the next anti-illegal immigrant dragnet is on the way, vowed Joe:
"I will do another crime suppression very soon to show Washington and everybody else I'm not changing, I will not be intimidated by Congress, by alleged racial profiling investigations by the Justice Department, by all these demonstrators, these politicians, all trying to keep me from doing my job, so nothing will change. Stay tuned."
I've asked this question before, and I'll ask it again: Why would the Obama administration want to dirty its hands with this man in any way, shape or form -- whether it be in the jails or on the street? Reportedly, some 30,000 undocumented immigrants have been identified in Joe's jails, presumably through the 287(g) program. And ICE wants those warm bodies to add to its count of illegals apprehended. But at what cost?
Arpaio's jails lost their accreditation in January of this year. Amnesty International has condemned the conditions therein, conditions that have, in part, led to lawsuits against the MCSO with total payouts of over $43 million. Hence, Arpaio's sobriquet as the nation's "most-sued" sheriff.
Also, there have been documented instances of the abuse of women while they languished in Arpaio's custody with ICE holds on them. One lady earned a broken arm for refusing to sign what she believed to be a voluntary removal from the U.S. Another lady's jaw was busted as she was being arrested in an MCSO worksite raid, and she was denied proper medical treatment for weeks on end. All this, and Arpaio's snarling insolence to boot, and the federal government still wants to do business with him?
Regarding the recent tale of Arpaio and his henchmen using the MCSO's RICO fund to pay for vehicles to drive them to and from work, Arpaio was ceding no ground.
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"I work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I'm using dope peddlers' money for that car," he told Lawrence, adding, "and my staff does the same thing, we have undercover people...My budget's been cut...more than any other law enforcement agency. I don't have money from the general fund, so I use RICO money."
The MCSO also used RICO money to fund its own foreign policy in Honduras, as was revealed by this blog in 2008. Despite an outcry from the public, the MCSO got away with it. Joe'll probably get away with this one too. But you'd think such scandals -- which are almost a weekly if not daily part of Arpaio's tenure in office -- would give the Obama-ites some pause. If they allow this jail agreement to be approved, then they have betrayed everything they claim the administration stands for, and it will take a long time for those of us concerned with Arpaio's mistreatment of migrants to recover from the collective dorsal knife wound.
(Off topic, what's up with radio smoothie Jay Lawrence veering into wacky Glenn Beck territory in other segments -- all this talk of wishing for President Obama to fail, as well as how we may be on the brink of a civil war or a coup? Sheesh, Jay, step away from the gas pipe. I know you Republicans lost the election, but it's not the end of the world. Really. I count on you to be the voice of reason on Phoenix's FM wing-nut outlet. Here's hoping they didn't put the pod next to your chair in the studio.)