Joe Arpaio Retaliates Against Katherine Figueroa, Hits Uncle Sam's with Immigration Raid
Arpaio holding court after arresting dangerous cooks, busboys and dishwashers at Uncle Sam's on Wednesday
Remember when Sheriff Joe Arpaio's lawyer Tim Casey told federal Judge G. Murray Snow that, "The MCSO is out of the federal immigration enforcement business"?
That was during a hearing in June following Snow's ruling in Melendres v. Arpaio that the MCSO is guilty of racial profiling. Snow has ordered the MCSO to end its unconstitutional targeting of Latinos.
Well, Casey can eat his words, as Arpaio's goons raided two locations of the local family restaurant Uncle Sam's on Wednesday, arresting 10 people on state charges of ID theft and forgery.
See Also: Barack Obama's Shame: Joe Arpaio Wrecks Families, Wounds a Business, Makes a Little Girl Cry, All with Federal Authority Joe Arpaio Victim Katherine Figueroa: Her Parents Face Deportation July 17 Joe Arpaio B-Day Bomb: Judge Wants Monitor in Melendres
Those taken into custody likely are undocumented, and so must use false identities and social security numbers to work at spots like Uncle Sam's.
You know, making the food you have eaten, cleaning the dishes you have dirtied, and emptying the trash bins you have filled.
Joe, really, time for a new toupee...
The raid, the first of its kind since Snow's watershed ruling in May, wherein he enjoined the MCSO from enforcing federal civil immigration law, was in clear retaliation for U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's cutting 13 year-old Katherine Figueroa's parents a break Wednesday, administratively closing their case.
Katherine's parents Sandra and Carlos were arrested by MCSO thugs during a similar immigration raid on Phoenix's Lindstrom Family Auto Wash in 2009. At the time, Katherine was nine, and watched her mom and dad being zip-tied and led away on local TV.
Her tearful appeal to President Obama for help was filmed by videographer Dennis Gilman and activist Lydia Guzman. Gilman's YouTube video later went viral.
Katherine went on to testify before Congress and participate in pro-immigration demonstrations in Phoenix.
Her quest to free her parents became part of the award-winning documentary Two Americans, by filmmakers Valeria Fernandez and Dan DeVivo, wherein her actions are contrasted with Arpaio's.
Carlos and Sandra Figueroa eventually pleaded guilty to felony ID theft charges and were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which released them pending the adjudication of their immigration cases.
Yesterday, with the assistance of the human rights organization Puente and immigration attorney Delia Salvatierra, ICE formally closed the case against Katherine's parents, with a federal judge's approval. They will not be deported.
On the same day, the Arizona Republic ran a long piece by Richard Ruelas on the Figueroas' pending win. Channel 12 also broadcast a segment on the story.
Arpaio lent the Republic piece an angry quote.
"If the Obama administration wishes to permit convicted felons who are legal residents of another country to take up residence in the United States," Arpaio complained, "that is the U.S. government's decision to make."
The New York Times picked up on Katherine's tale, running the same resentful quote.
Given the media attention, Arpaio's raids on two locations of the local, family chain Uncle Sam's, was, sadly, predictable.
The MCSO claimed the raid was the result of a nine-month investigation.
Which may be true, but the timing of it was all Arpaio's.
I asked Salvatierra if she believed the raid was in reaction to the Figueroas' case.
"Absolutely," she said, "every colleague and every reporter and media outlet that I've spoken to today has agreed that this is in direct retaliation for the Figueroas' heroic win.
"I think the sheriff is a sore loser. He wanted to cast a black cloud on the community for helping the Figueroa's win the administrative closure of their deportation case."
She compared Arpaio's spiteful move to Governor Jan Brewer's similarly mean, childish executive order denying DREAMers who qualify for DACA the right to drive.
"I think what the power's that be are not counting on is the tenacity of this immigrant community," Salvatierra contended. "We have had some very big victories locally. People are going to understand they need to fight. They need to combat these charges even if it means staying detained in the county jail."
I'd compare it to an abusive husband, who gets chewed out by his boss, and then goes home and beats up his wife.
Arpaio is that kind of cowardly bully.
The people arrested in the raid will be offered a choice by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery: plead guilty to felony charges that might make them deportable, and be turned over to ICE, or remain nonbondable under Prop 100, due to their undocumented status, and await trial, which could take as long as six to nine months.
Such is the system here in Maricopa County, one that overcharges undocumented defendants, thereby coercing them into guilty pleas with often tragic immigration consequences.
Which brings us full circle, and undercuts attorney Casey's contention that Arpaio is no longer in the immigration enforcement business.
Technically, Arpaio can get away with it, for now. Judge Snow enjoined the MCSO from enforcing federal, civil immigration law.
But Arpaio can continue to hunt undocumented Hispanics under the guise of enforcing state law.
In reality, it's quite similar to racial profiling. Just as MCSO deputies once followed cars driven by Latinos, watching for a legitimate excuse to pull them over and inquire about immigration status, now Arpaio's deputies operate under the cover of state law to arrest Latinos for working without authorization.
It's a pattern that theU.S. Department of Justice noted in its 2011 letter of findings to Montgomery, wherein Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez accused Arpaio's office of discriminatory policing.
The letter noted that the MCSO's Criminal Employment Squad "targets worksites where most, if not all, of the employees are Latino."
Currently, the DOJ's separate civil rights lawsuit against the MCSO is ongoing.
This, as the parties in Melendres work to come up with an agreement to enforce Snow's order.
The worksite raids are not part of the Melendres case. However, what Arpaio's up to should be as obvious as the veins on his bulbous nose.
As long as Montgomery collaborates with Arpaio on the prosecution of unauthorized workers, and as long as the courts and the DOJ fail to act on this aspect of Arpaio's persecution of the undocumented, these raids will continue.
The only recourse for the undocumented, their attorneys, as well as activists and concerned citizens, is to follow the example of the Figueroas, Puente, and Salvatierra, and fight.
Fight for every family whose lives are upended by Arpaio's raids, for every child who will not see their parents for months on end.
Fight until Arpaio and Montgomery and the scourge of nativism are finally in the rear view mirror of history.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.