Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is putting the infamous 4th Avenue Jail on lockdown for an indeterminate amount of time on Friday because of a scheduled protest against him and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau. The Phoenix-based grassroots organization for migrant rights, Puente Arizona, is organizing a rally for an “Arpaio-Free AZ," and leaders say hundreds are expected to attend.
If there was ever a good time for an anti-Joe protest, this weekend is it. Thousands are in town for the annual Netroots Nation Conference—the largest gatherings of progressive political activists in the country.
“We’re hoping to have 200 local folks…and at least 500 people from Netroots,” says Francisca Porchas, organizing director of Puente. “We’re marching to the 4th Avenue Jail,” which is where most people are booked after being arrested, “and people who have been detained there will tell their stories.”
In a statement issued earlier this week, Netroots Nation Executive Director Raven Brooks explained “one of our primary goals with this year’s [Netroots] conference is to expose some of the unjust practices in our current immigration system and elevate the stories and voices of local activists fighting back against those practices…Sheriff Arpaio has a long history of abusing power and terrorizing immigrant families in Maricopa County. We’re proud to stand with local organizers against this legacy of inhumane treatment and racial profiling.”
According to Carlos Garcia, Director of the Puente Movement, “Maricopa County needs to remove Arpaio from office immediately and it needs to end the policies and institutions he’s established with him…Arpaio will never willingly change his ways, as shown by his speech at Donald Trump’s campaign stop in Phoenix.” (Arpaio offered the keynote speech at last weekend’s Trump rally, the theme of which was problems stemming from “illegal immigration” to the country.)
Puente and Netroots Nation are calling for Arpaio to be kicked out of office, and for ICE deportation agents to be removed from the 4th Avenue Jail. ICE has maintained a presence in the jail for years, and according to the MCSO website, the “sheriff’s detention officers have turned over 52,317 illegal immigrants to Immigration authorities for deportation.” Critics say the agency’s presence helps enable Arpaio’s racist policies.
“Arpaio was granted one of the first and most extensive police-ICE collaboration contracts in the country in 2007, that paved the way for SB1070 and similar policies and laws across the country,” Puente writes on the Facebook page for the Friday rally. “Even though Arpaio is facing civil and criminal contempt charges in court…the federal government continues to deport Arpaio’s victims.”
During the booking process for anyone arrested in Maricopa County, questions are asked about residency status. People determined to be undocumented, Porchas explains, “are sent to an ICE officer [who] puts a federal hold on them,” meaning “they can’t be cited, given a court date, and released like most people,” even if the charge is a minor one.
“They’re transported to the Central Avenue ICE center,” and then often sent to a detention center, where people who aren’t simply deported have been known to languish for years while awaiting trial.
In response to news of the protest, Arpaio used Twitter to announce he was planning to put the jail on lockdown.
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Porchas says she and others from Puente are not at all surprised, “we suspected that he would [do this],” she says.
1. Arpaio’s immediate resignation: Arpaio needs to go and he needs to take all the racist, abusive policies and practices he institutionalized with him.
2. End Police-ICE collaboration: As the first sheriff to have his officers allowed to act as ICE agents by the federal government, Arpaio paved the way for SB1070. Now police departments across the state can racially profile with impunity. Residents already subjected to prejudiced policing shouldn't be targets for deportation as well. We demand ICE agents immediately leave the 4th Avenue Jail and that ICE stop deporting all people swept up in the criminal justice system through the corrupt and abusive Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.
3. Human Rights in Maricopa County Jails: We demand the immediate closing of Tent City, independent investigation into all deaths in custody, and adequate healthcare and mental health care for inmates. Arpaio has worked to stripped the dignity of people in his custody, through chain gangs, inadequate meals, striped uniforms, and pink underwear. Stopping the dehumanization of inmates in county jails starts with ending these practices of intimidation and humiliation.
4. End Discriminatory and Abusive Enforcement: Arpaio’s posses must be immediately disbanded and all racial profiling and abuse by officers must be investigated and sanctioned by an independent commission. Directly impacted communities must be included in policies enacted to overturn the culture of abuse and racism rampant in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.
5. Justice for Arpaio’s Victims: Justice in Maricopa County is not just the absence of Arpaio. The sheriff and his cronies have destroyed countless lives over his nearly 25-year reign of terror. It’s time for us to turn the tables on Arpaio, to fight to actively repair the damage he has done to our communities.