Sheriff Joe Arpaio was recently on the Al Jazeera America program "Consider This " to discuss immigration (what else?) and got b-slapped in the nicest way possible by filmmaker Dan DeVivo, one of the two persons behind the immigration-related documentary Two Americans, the other person being Phoenix-based reporter Valeria Fernandez.
On Sunday evening, the new cable channel broadcast Two Americans, which follows Arpaio's transformation of his agency into a Hispanic-hunting organization and contrasts Arpaio's egomania with the life of one of his victims, Katherine Figueroa, whose parents were both arrested during the MCSO's 2009 raid of the Lindstrom Family Auto Wash in Phoenix.
A couple of days before the doc's broadcast, DeVivo and Arpaio squared off, and since then, AJA has posted a portion of the segment, which shows DeVivo running rings around the old man, though never in a disrespectful way.
In the video, the host observes that Arpaio's anti-immigration policies have received substantial support from the public. DeVivo responds that Arpaio's popularity "has dwindled" over the years and attributes this decline to Arpaio's round-ups of brown folk.
Of course, Arpaio is having none of this, and exclaims that he won his last election by "8 percent," which is more than twice the percentage President Obama won by in 2012, so he has "double the mandate."
Actually, the final count was a little closer according to Maricopa County Elections, with Arpaio just 6 percent over his closest rival Paul Penzone, 50.66 to 44.65. That's barely a majority, which is nothing to brag about, considering that Arpaio had to spend millions for that victory, and there was a third person in the race, which played to Joe's advantage.
But I'll give the devil his due. He's been elected six times to office, and there are a pant-load of anti-Mexican bigots in this county who love Arpaio's dragnets for the undocumented. So, yeah, a slim majority of the electorate is responsible for our serial racist of a sheriff still being in office.
That said, Arpaio actually did make one comment I agree with, telling the show's host that the idea of closing down the border before any immigration reform can take place is ridiculous.
"If you want to change the laws...do something about it," Arpaio grumbles. "And stop saying that...we have to do the fence, or the border first, before we do anything else. That's a cop out, because I spent 25 years at the border on each side. You're never going to secure the border 100 percent."
Sheesh, tell it to your teabagger pals, Joe. Please.
DeVivo also offers an analysis of why Arpaio's more a symptom of the underlying fault.
"The biggest problem with using local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law is that it breaks a trust with the community," says DeVivo. "And it's a serious problem that needs serious rethinking."
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"But what happens when the local police are tasked with enforcing [immigration] law is that people who are afraid that their immigration status will get called into question no longer call the cops to report crimes...crimes like domestic violence, you name it, are getting under-reported and you lose an entire community of people who would otherwise be reliable sources because they're afraid that the sheriff is going to ask them for their papers."
Hammer meet nail. The backup for DeVivo's contention comes from law enforcement itself, like County Attorney Bill Montgomery's recent public service announcements cynically encouraging the undocumented to report crime, or Arpaio's flaccid attempts to do "outreach" to the Latino community, while at the same time doing a sweep of a Latino area of town.
Bottom line: You cannot do community policing if the community is afraid of you. And in the case of the MCSO, it will take a long time before that fear is whittled away.