Bill Montgomery Insults Undocumented Hispanics in PSAs, Then Seeks Their Help
So what do you do if you're in law enforcement and you want someone's help catching and prosecuting bad guys?
If you're Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, you start off with an insult.
That's what Monty does in new public service announcements he's rolling out in Spanish and English, aimed at undocumented Hispanics.
The ads feature Latino couples, kids, dancers, and Monty himself, speaking Spanish, in an open collar, like he's trying to ape The Most Interesting Man in the World.
Only this is no Dos Equis commercial.
Bill Montgomery: Sure I helped deport your mom, now I need you to stop being selfish and come out of the shadows...
"It's easy to stay in the shadows, to stay quiet and mind your own business and don't get involved," he tells the people he's persecuted and prosecuted with the assistance of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
See, being undocumented is a piece of cake in Arizona. You aliens without papers don't know how lucky you got it.
"But there's something more important," Monty continues, "something that's greater than each one of us. That something is our community."
Which is why Monty has been prosecuting dishwashers and cleaning ladies arrested in Arpaio's anti-immigrant raids of businesses. Because busting up Latino families is good for communities.
"We don't stand for crime," Monty tells the camera. "Crime gets reported. When you report crime, your immigration status doesn't matter. That's the law."
That's a new one on me, since in 2010, when Senate Bill 1070 was being debated, critics persistently pointed out that there was no exception made for victims, only to be dismissed by the likes of now-recalled and disgraced state Senator Russell Pearce.
So I fired off an email to Monty's flack Jerry Cobb, asking the law Monty's citing.
Cobb referred me to SB 1070, section 2b, the section that requires cops to inquire into the immigration status of those they come in contact with, if police have reasonable suspicion to believe these individuals are in the country illegally.
Here it is again, in case you haven't read it lately:
B. For any lawful stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation. Any person who is arrested shall have the person's immigration status determined before the person is released. The person's immigration status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States Code section 1373(c). A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may not consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution. A person is presumed to not be an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States if the person provides to the law enforcement officer or agency any of the following:
1. A valid Arizona driver license.
2. A valid Arizona nonoperating identification license.
3. A valid tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal identification.
4. If the entity requires proof of legal presence in the United States before issuance, any valid United States federal, state or local government issued identification.
See anything in there about victims? Nope, me neither.
Monty: definitely not the Most Interesting Man in the World
The only portion that could possibly apply, were it given a helluva lot of spin, would be the phrase, "except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation."
I asked Cobb if this is what Monty was referring to. So far no response.
(Later, Cobb confirmed this by sending me a link to Monty's press conference today, where the PSAs are discussed. And yes, Monty was referring to the section of 1070 I mentioned above.)
I also asked about the reputation his office has for not certifying the U-visas of undocumented victims, allowing them to remain in the country if they cooperate with law enforcement.
Again, no reply.
I contacted pro-immigrant activist Carlos Garcia of the group Puente. His first comment was about Monty's insulting lead, about what a party it is living life in the shadows.
"That's exactly it," he said. "There's been this series of laws in Arizona making people's lives so miserable that they will `self-deport,' pushed by his own party, by his own colleagues. That's made people go further into the shadows. I mean, SB 1070 and even City of Phoenix policy does not assure victims and witnesses they will not be asked their immigration status."
In fact, the mere act of showing a driver's license or other picture ID from a Latin American country often turns that individual into a "criminal" in this state, as local cops regularly assume such IDs are fake.
The bearer can then be charged with forgery or identity theft, and if undocumented, held nonbondable under the dictates of Prop 100.
"The way I look at it, it's like he's trying to bait people," Garcia said. "Instead of trying to help people."
Immigration attorney Delia Salvatierra wanted to know if Montgomery will change his office's hostility toward certifying U-visas.
"I hope it's a step in the right direction," Salvatierra said, skeptically, "But the next question is, will you certify a U-visa if they're a victim of a crime and they cooperate with you?"
Certainly, it's difficult to imagine Monty's disbarred predecessor Andrew Thomas doing PSAs like these. Thomas was a true-believer, who literally wanted to drive out as many of the undocumented as possible, punishing them along the way.
Montgomery, who campaigned for office in 2010 by promising to continue Thomas' anti-immigrant legacy, is more cynical. While doing outreach to the Latino community, he's also prosecuted undocumented workers rounded up by Arpaio.
Though recently, he has altered this policy somewhat.
For instance, of 20 individuals rounded up in recent weeks by the MCSO for working illegally at the cleaning company ProServ, 14 have had their cases dismissed by the MCAO. Defense attorneys tell me that Montgomery's office is demanding that Arpaio's office actually find "victims" for the alleged identity thefts involved.
Nevertheless, some workers from ProServ and from the Uncle Sams restaurant chain -- both raided by Arpaio -- remain in jail, nonbondable, fighting forgery and identity theft charges. All because they wanted to put food on the table.
According to an MCAO press release, the PSAs "will begin airing next month and run throughout 2014."
Garcia believes the commercials are nothing more than a way for Monty to garner publicity.
"Montgomery's taking a page out of Arpaio's book, using these issues to get on TV," he told me. "It's like Arpaio putting crosses in the desert."
Update: After publishing this blog item, Cobb got back to me, claiming the MCAO certifies U-visas all the time. I went back to some figures Cobb gave me in the past.
In January of this year, Cobb stated:
"The latest numbers I have available on U Visas cover the period between January 2009 and May 2012. During that time frame, our office (not "Montgomery") received 83 U-visa requests certified 6 and declined to certify 19. The rest were either approved by another agency (applicants typically apply to multiple law enforcement agencies), or were not associated with active cases, or were pending review."
If you're doing the math at home, that means the MCAO certified U-visas 7.2 percent of the time.
Some immigration attorneys have told me that the reason other agencies take up the slack is because the MCAO makes it extremely difficult for undocumented victims to receive U-visa certifications from its office.
At that time, Cobb also stated that, "The MCAO's policy is to certify U Visa requests in cases in which the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity requires the presence and cooperation of eligible victims or witnesses who lack the legal authority to reside in the U.S."
Cobb also confirmed that Monty previously had stated that, "it is not the practice of the MCAO to use the certifying of U-visas to effect immigration policy."
Finally, after our conversation, Garcia issued the following statement on behalf of Puente:
No police agency in Maricopa County guarantees that they will not ask victims or witnesses their immigration status. Indeed, we hear stories every day of people being arrested, sent to ICE, and facing deportation after calling the police for help.
Montgomery's call on our community to come out of the shadows and report crime when he and his cronies have been making our lives miserable could be considered entrapment.
He cannot claim to support us publicly and then collaborate with Arpaio and separate our families when he thinks the spotlight is off. If Montgomery truly wants to win the trust of the Latino community, he will stop prosecuting Arpaio's victims.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.